I get a lot of letters from prisoners who claim they were wrongly convicted. But it's hard for a journalist to undo what a jury or judge has already done. And you have to be careful. You don't want to be used by someone who doesn't deserve a second chance.
So why did Justly Johnson's case get my attention?
It was the Wisconsin Innocence Project.
I grew up in Wisconsin, and when I saw that they were involved, I wondered; why would lawyers from Wisconsin stick their necks out to defend a guy from Michigan convicted of murder? After all, there was no DNA evidence that would give these lawyers a slam-dunk case.
Once I started looking into it, I discovered this case had many unanswered questions and then I couldn't let go.
I found myself working nights and weekends, on my own time, waking up in the middle of the night thinking about the case, and driving to state prisons for face-to-face meetings. This is one of the most intense and compelling investigations of my career.
I can't tell you whether Justly Johnson is guilty. What I can tell you after months of working this case is that it has a lot of issues: a stunning lack of evidence, sloppy police work, loose ends that were never investigated.
The two witnesses who sealed Justly Johnson's fate claim they fingered him because the police threatened them. It's been well documented that high-pressure tactics were being used in the Detroit homicide unit at the time.
And so I decided to dig as deeply as I could, lay out the story and let you decide: Is Justly Johnson responsible for murdering a young mom with her three kids in the back seat of her minivan?