Missouri’s Ethical Society of Police (ESOP) is speaking out about the alleged police and prosecutorial misconduct in the case of the wrongful 1995 murder conviction of Lamar Johnson (above). According to ESOP, former St. Louis City Detective Joseph Nickerson fabricated police reports in the Johnson case. ESOP is calling for the termination of Nickerson from his status “as an intermittent employee with the St. Louis County Police Department.”
ESOP released the following statement:
We join the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and all those who seek justice for Lamar Johnson in their call for Chief Mary Barton to terminate Joseph Nickerson’s status as an intermittent employee with the St. Louis County Police Department. The City Circuit Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit in collaboration with the Midwest Innocence Project reviewed the 1995 murder conviction of Lamar Johnson and found repeated prosecutorial misconduct to include false and fabricated witness statements within reports authored by former St. Louis City Detective Joseph Nickerson.
According to those who reviewed the case, the actions of Joseph Nickerson contributed to Lamar Johnson’s wrongful conviction and imprisonment for 26 years.
Lamar Johnson’s case is the epitome of all that is wrong with the Justice System. And, far too often, people of color and the financially challenged are victimized by judicial operatives who are more concerned with “winning” rather than justice. Joseph Nickerson and all involved with Mr. Johnson’s wrongful conviction are examples of such operatives.
Honesty and integrity are vital to gaining police legitimacy. In a system that is guided by reasonable suspicion and probable cause, there is sufficient evidence to suggest Joseph Nickerson lacks honesty and integrity. Therefore, it is inconceivable that he would be allowed to remain employed in any capacity within a law enforcement agency.
The St. Louis County Police Department continues to struggle with discrimination and race-based issues, which have damaged the Department’s reputation and legitimacy. Therefore, it defies logic that Chief Barton has allowed Joseph Nickerson to remain employed, particularly in a position of confidence such as a background investigator. In that role, he is empowered to impact the employment of others based on his testament to their suitability to be police officers.
However, terminating his employment is not enough. Joseph Nickerson was a St. Louis County Robbery/Homicide detective until his retirement. It is reasonable to presume the existence of fabrications and falsifications of witness statements within other cases wherein he served as an investigator. To that end, we urge the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office to conduct an audit of his cases that resulted in a conviction.
According to the Missouri Bar Association, all practicing attorneys within the state of Missouri take an oath which contains this pledge, “…I will practice law to the best of my knowledge and ability and with consideration for the defenseless and oppressed.” Let this serve as a reminder to Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell while he considers our request.
– The Ethical Society of Police
The Ethical Society of Police (ESOP) is an association of police officers, park rangers, and civilians that advocates for racial and gender equity in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and St. Louis County Police Department. ESOP was founded in 1972 to address racial biases within law enforcement. ESOP also works to improve community/police relations, develop policies and programs to reduce crime, elevate the status of minority civilians and police officers, encourage greater minority employment by law enforcement agencies, and increase professionalism in law enforcement. Membership is open to all races and includes more than 370 law enforcement professionals employed by the City and County of St. Louis. ESOP membership is approximately 97% African American, but membership is open to all races, religions and sexual orientations.