Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

FAMILY RALLIES OVER RETRIAL OF HAZELWOOD SLAYING [Corrected 08/31/ 12]

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

FAMILY RALLIES OVER RETRIAL OF HAZELWOOD SLAYING [Corrected 08/31/ 12]

Article excerpt

About two dozen people gathered on the steps of the City-County Building Wednesday morning, trying to rally support for a man they say is innocent but who has spent the last 18 years in prison.

Jury selection for the retrial of Terrell Johnson, 37, will begin today, with testimony slated to start Tuesday before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen.

Johnson is charged with the July 21, 1994, slaying of Verna Robinson, 20, of Hazelwood, who was shot as she walked down Almeda Street late at night.

Since then, Johnson, who is being held at the State Correctional Institution at Greene, has proclaimed his innocence. His family and friends have worked to prove it.

Saundra Cole, his wife , said the rally Wednesday was designed to bring awareness to the public that there are people incarcerated for crimes they didn't commit.

"It's real," she said. "Terrell is innocent."

In 2008, Johnson won a retrial after he presented evidence from a new witness. That man, Kenneth Robinson, told the court at an evidentiary hearing that the key witness against Johnson in the first trial, Evelyn "Dolly" McBryde, could not have seen the defendant shoot Ms. Robinson because she was a block away smoking crack cocaine at the time.

Ms. Cole said that in 2009 after the retrial had been granted, the district attorney's office offered her son a deal to plead guilty in exchange for the time he'd already served in prison.

He would have been released. But Johnson turned it down.

"I would say it's all about faith and believing," she said. "When you believe in God, you don't have to take a deal from nobody."

The district attorney's office had no comment on the pending case.

Police investigating the Robinson shooting in 1994 knew early on that three people had been involved.

One witness was able to identify two: Harold Cabbagestalk and Dorian Moorefield, who were both in a local gang called the Hazelwood Mob. …

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