WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has overturned an appeals court decision that would have released a Pennsylvania man convicted of helping to kill a woman in an alley nearly two decades ago.
A federal appeals court ruled that there wasn't enough evidence to uphold the conviction of Lorenzo Johnson. Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy as an accomplice in the December 1995 shotgun murder of Taraja Williams.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the evidence at trial was insufficient to prove that Johnson intended the victim's death, and a federal judge ordered Johnson's release.
But the high court, in reversing the decision, said it is longstanding precedent that it is up to juries, not judges, to decide what conclusions should be drawn from evidence submitted at trial. The only way that can be reversed is that "no rational trier of fact could have agreed with the jury," the justices said.
"The evidence was sufficient to convict Johnson as an accomplice and a co-conspirator in the murder of Taraja Williams," said the court, which sent the case back to the lower courts.