- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A Pennsylvania man released from a life sentence before he was ordered back to prison has another chance to pursue his innocence claims in what’s become a twisting legal odyssey.

The state Attorney General’s Office recently met with defense lawyers to review new evidence involving Lorenzo Johnson and a 1995 Harrisburg bar slaying.

A federal appeals court had thrown out Johnson’s conviction in 2012, and he left prison after 16 years. But a prior attorney general successfully appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court - and Johnson walked back through the prison doors four months later.

Defense lawyers recently met with Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office for about 90 minutes to discuss new developments, pro bono lawyer Michael Wiseman said Tuesday. He believes the new evidence supports claims that Johnson, an alleged accomplice, was in New York the night Taraja Williams was fatally shot.

Meanwhile, several witnesses who knew Johnson say he was not the man in the alley with the gunman, the lawyer said. Kane’s office has until March 31 to file a response to Johnson’s latest bid for relief.

“We believe that the witnesses we presented to them are credible, and give a coherent version of the events,” Wiseman said. “I take them at their word, that they’re going to do a straightforward, honest review.”

Kane spokesman Joe Peters confirmed the meeting, but said the office won’t comment on the new evidence until the court filing.

One trial witness testified that Johnson and the shooter had been arguing with Williams over money earlier that day. Prosecutors say that provides enough motive for jurors to have found intent when they convicted both of first-degree murder in 1996.

However, a 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals panel disagreed in a 2-1 ruling, finding insufficient evidence that Johnson had any intent to kill.

Johnson had married and found work in Yonkers, N.Y., last year before the Supreme Court reversed that decision without hearing arguments. A friend drove him back to prison.

“He’s hanging in there. He’s obviously frustrated, and very anxious to see some movement (on the case), and who can blame him?” Wiseman said. “I can’t imagine … having your freedom taken from you so precipitously, after thinking everything was over.”

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