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Letter: Drop perjury charge against witness

Published: Monday, May 5, 2014 12:03 p.m. CDT

CHICAGO — A letter from several prominent attorneys asks an Illinois prosecutor to drop perjury charges against a witness who claims he lied when he helped secure convictions at a murder trial 20 years ago.

The Chicago Sun-Times cites the letter to Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. It argues that prosecuting 42-year-old Willie Johnson could dissuade others who gave false testimony from coming forward.

At the 1994 trial, Johnson identified two men as gunmen in a fatal shooting. In 2011, he told a judge he'd lied. But after the judge said he didn't believe Johnson did, in fact, lie, Alvarez charged him.

Johnson's attorney, Steve Greenberg, says recanting witnesses who hurt a state case are more likely to be charged with perjury than witnesses who lie to help the state.

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