Did An ‘Earwitness’ Send An Innocent Man To Death Row?


iHeartPodcasts and Lava For Good have released a limited true crime docuseries, Earwitness, that delves into the controversial case of Toforest Johnson. Accused of murdering Deputy Sheriff William G. Hardy in Birmingham, Alabama in 1995, Johnson has been on death row for over a quarter-century despite significant doubts about his guilt.

Investigative journalist Beth Shelburne took up the case in 2019 and discovered numerous disturbing facts. Not only was there a lack of eyewitnesses and physical evidence tying Johnson to the murder, but the state also initially tried to convict a different man for the same crime.

Most unsettlingly, Johnson’s conviction relied heavily on an ‘earwitness’ — a woman who claimed to have overheard an incriminating phone call. This witness was secretly paid for her testimony, a fact not disclosed to the jury or Johnson’s legal team for 17 years.

Earwitness is an 8-episode series that probes the troubling questions surrounding Johnson’s case and the broader issues it raises about the American criminal justice system. The series is hosted by Shelburne, whose previous work has been featured in leading publications and who was named a 2018-2019 Pen Writing for Justice fellow. New episodes of the series will be released on Tuesdays and are available on the iHeartRadio app and other podcast platforms.


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