Coming soon... podcast 3 years in the making!
Earwitness is about the wrongful conviction of Toforest Johnson
(Interviewing Toforest Johnson’s children for the podcast)
My team is still grinding away at the labor of love called Earwitness, an 8-part investigative series about Toforest Johnson, who is currently on Alabama’s death row.
I began covering Toforest’s story in 2019 when his case was back in court to challenge his conviction. I was still working at WBRC and didn’t want to believe what I was hearing, that he was wrongfully sent to death row for the 1995 murder of a sheriff’s deputy based on the testimony of a single witness who claimed she overheard him talk about the crime on a 3-way phone call.
At the time, I thought there has to be more. People don’t get sent to death row just because someone claims they heard them talk about the crime.
Turns out, I was wrong, that is exactly the evidence the state of Alabama used to connect Toforest Johnson to the murder of Deputy William G. Hardy, a crime that was impossible for Toforest to commit because he was somewhere else when it happened.
Even worse, the state paid this earwitness $5000 in secret and didn’t admit to the payment for 17 years. The jury never knew about the reward payment. And the state is still trying to execute Toforest Johnson.
So I set out to learn how the hell this happened. For three years I’ve been asking questions, reading documents, auditing media coverage, listening to archival audio, doing anything and everything I can to turn over every fact and opinion about this case.
The result is both a story about a wrongful conviction and an indictment on our entire justice system. If the original trial prosecutor and the current district attorney say the conviction should be overturned and Toforest Johnson should get a new trial, why is the state of Alabama still trying to kill him?
I hope that you’ll put Earwitness on your “must listen” list, and join the effort to call attention to Toforest Johnson’s case.
You can subscribe now to get the first two episodes early. They’ll be available on all podcast platforms September 19, so mark your calendar. In the meantime, here’s a preview!