Boston Globe
 March 28, 2000

 By Shelley Murphy, and John Ellement, Globe Staff

 More than five years after Donnell Johnson was sent to prison for fatally 
 shooting 9-year-old Jermaine Goffigan as the boy counted his Halloween 
 candy, officials conceded yesterday that Johnson was wrongly convicted by 
 the "mistaken" testimony of eyewitnesses.

 Suffolk District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II said his office would ask a 
 judge today to vacate the murder conviction of Johnson, 22, who was freed 
 in November after new evidence first surfaced.   "Donnell Johnson was 
 convicted twice, largely on eyewitness accounts of the murder offered by 
 family members of Jermaine Goffigan," Martin told reporters during a 
 late-afternoon press conference at his office. "After a lengthy 
 investigation we have concluded that those witness accounts were mistaken."

 Both Martin and Boston Police Commissioner Paul Evans publicly apologized 
 to Johnson for sending him to prison, just minutes after meeting privately 
 with Goffigan's mother and grandmother to tell them they no longer believe 
 Johnson is guilty of the 1994 murder.

 Bitterly disappointed as she left Martin's office, Goffigan's grandmother, 
 Dorothy Haskins, told reporters, "All I have to say is the criminal 
 justice (system) here in Boston, Massachusetts, killed my grandson again. 
 They put a bullet in him again."

 Unshaken in her belief that Johnson killed her grandson, Haskins said, 
 "Your eyes don't fool you. Ralph Martin might as well have said we were 

 It was one of the city's most searing murders. On his ninth birthday, 
 Goffigan was felled by gang crossfire as he sat outside his grandmother's 
 apartment at the Academy Homes housing development counting the candy from 
 his night of trick-or-treating.

 The exoneration of Johnson marks the second time in a year that Martin has 
 freed a convicted murderer after new evidence revealed the wrong man had 
 been sent to prison based on faulty eyewitness testimony.

 Marlon Passley of Somerville was set free last April after serving four 
 years in prison for a 1995 drive-by shooting that killed 18-year-old 
 Tennyson Drakes and wounded two other men in Dorchester. A man arrested by 
 federal agents in a gang case said that Passley was innocent and 
 implicated others.

 "Even though we strive for perfection, I would be less than truthful if I 
 said mistakes aren't made," Martin said. "Just as mistakes are made, it's 
 just as important, if not more important, to recognize when they are and 
 to admit a mistake was made."

 Martin said his office will ask Juvenile Court Judge Paul D. Lewis to 
 vacate Johnson's conviction during a hearing today.

 Johnson, then 16, was arrested the day after Goffigan was killed, after 
 Goffigan's mother, brother, and a reputed member of the Academy Homes gang 
 identified him as one of two gunmen who fired into a crowd and then fled 
 in a car with one or two other suspects.

 The shooting was believed to be in retaliation for a shooting earlier in 
 the night that wounded members of the Heath Street gang in Jamaica Plain.

 Convicted by a judge in March 1996 and by a jury in November 1996, Johnson 
 was sentenced to 18-20 years in prison.

 In August, a member of the Heath Street gang facing federal drug charges 
 cut a deal with prosecutors and insisted Johnson wasn't involved in the 
 slaying. He blamed other gang members for the murder.

 Since September, a grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case and is 
 now targeting new suspects, according to Martin.

 "We intend to find the persons responsible and we intend to convict them," 
 Martin said.

 Attorney Stephen Hrones, who represents Johnson, stood on the sidelines 
 during Martin's news conference and later told reporters, "They've done 
 the right thing. Unfortunately, they didn't do it a long time ago."

 From the day Johnson was arrested, his mother, Robin, and the Rev. Bruce 
 Wall, a Dorchester minister, led a group of supporters who insisted 
 Johnson was innocent.

 Wall accused police of rushing to judgment. The case against Johnson was 
 fraught with allegations of serious misconduct by police and prosecutors.

 Boston police failed to turn over an interview they had with Johnson, who 
 claimed he had been home watching Monday Night Football when Goffigan was 
 slain, until midway through his second trial. Earlier, Boston Police 
 Sergeant Detective William Mahoney had testified that Johnson refused to 
 be interviewed.

 The state Supreme Judicial Court upheld Johnson's conviction, but noted 
 that the failure of police to produce Johnson's statement earlier 
 "suggests either serious misconduct or negligence."

 While Martin insisted that the police handling of the case had nothing to 
 do with Johnson's wrongful conviction, Hrones claimed that it did and 
 called for an investigation.

 Were it not for a federal investigation into drug trafficking at the 
 Bromley-Heath project that prompted a gang member to exonerate Johnson, 
 Hrones said, he'd still be in prison.