The Exoneration: In 1997, after several failed attempts for a new trial, the Innocence Project took on Johnson's case, filing an extraordinary motion for a new trial, which would allow DNA testing from the rape kit to be conducted. DNA from the kit did not match Johnson's, and after a new trial in 1999, the District Attorney dropped all charges. "I don't see any reason to harbor any bitterness," Johnson said after his release. "If you hold something like that inside you, it just destroys you. Now it's time for me to go on with my life." Since his exoneration, Johnson, who served 16 years of his life sentence, wrote the book Exit to Freedom and joined the Innocence Project's board of directors.
The Crime: After being charged, but not convicted, in a 1981 rape case, Johnson became a primary suspect in a series of two rapes that took place two days apart in March 1983. Both female victims, from College Park, Ga., were choked and sexually assaulted by a black man, and one of them identified Johnson as the rapist in a photo lineup. He was convicted for that incident of rape, aggravated sodomy and burglary.