Former death row inmate wins new trial

A state appeals court has overturned the felony murder conviction of a former death row inmate who had his death sentence overturned in 2001.

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A state appeals court has overturned the felony murder conviction of a former death row inmate who had his death sentence overturned in 2001.

The Tennessee Criminal Appeals Court ruled on Friday that Erskine Johnson deserved a new trial after he presented new evidence that cast doubt on testimony of a key witness against him.

Johnson was convicted in 1985 of killing Memphis grocery store manager Joe Belenchia during a 1983 robbery.

In his appeal, Johnson presented evidence that a witness against him may have had reason to lie because she was connected to another suspect in the case.

The Shelby County prosecutor has asked the state attorney general's office to appeal the ruling. That office still is reviewing the opinion.


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