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The long, hard half-life of Lawyer Johnson

The last man sentenced to die here was freed 30 years ago. But his struggle has just begun.

By James H. Burnett III
Globe Staff / April 8, 2012
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Where most people measure the time of their lives in forward progress, Lawyer Johnson measures his life strictly in terms of before and after. Before 1982 and after 1982. He was 30-years-old in ‘82, when a judge freed him from the prison where he’d served time on death row for a murder he didn’t commit. It has been 30 years since Johnson, the last person ever sentenced to death in Mass., was freed. And while “people tell you that with time you can move on, I haven’t bee able to,’’ Johnson says.

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On Oct. 19, 1982, Johnson was released from Walpole. ‘They literally cut me loose and never looked back to see if I would be OK,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t OK. I’m not still.’