HAZELWOOD, Pa. - A man who has spent the past 17 years in prison for the 1994 shooting death of a Hazelwood woman was acquitted of all charges Wednesday afternoon.
Terrell Johnson, 37, has maintained his innocence throughout the years he has spent in the State Correctional Institution in Greene County following the July 22, 1994 homicide of Verna Robinson, 30.
“I shouldn't have had to cop to nothing. Like my wife said, Jesus doesn’t make deals with anybody,” Johnson said Thursday upon his release. “He doesn't make compromises, and it's only by the grace of God that I'm standing here. Understand, i don't have any regrets. My family came together over all this, and as a result of this how can this be bad? I'm not mad at anybody.”
The jury in the retrial delivered a not guilty verdict late Wednesday afternoon, prompting Johnson to burst into tears.
Authorities in Allegheny County said Johnson killed Robinson to prevent her from testifying against a friend in a drive-by shooting several months earlier.
Johnson was granted a new trial when his attorneys produced a witness who said a woman who identified him as the gunman wasn't at the scene.
“Justice has been served. It’s been a long 18 years,” said Johnson’s wife, Saundra McKamey. “I don’t know how to feel. I’m still numb, but it’s a victory.”
McKamey has been married to Johnson for 17 years, and only knew him a couple of months before she said he turned himself in to police.
The jury informed Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen that they were deadlocked earlier in the day, but came to a unanimous decision shortly after 4 p.m.
Barbara Robinson, Verna Robinson’s mother, quietly exited the courtroom shortly after the verdict. She could not be reached for comment.
The weeklong trial spawned marches and protests outside the courthouse from Johnson supporters. Relatives of both Johnson and Robinson packed the courtroom.
Johnson was originally convicted of Robinson’s death in 1996 but granted a judge granted him a new trial in August 2009 based on the testimony of a new witness, Kenneth Robinson — no relation to the victim.
At the time of her death, Verna Robinson had been scheduled to testify against Johnson on charges that he assaulted her a month earlier, and in a case against a member of the “Hazelwood mob” she witnessed fatally shoot a man in a drive-by.
Johnson was released from prison at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“I just want to hug him so tight. He’ll be able to walk out of here a free man,” McKamey said. “We’ve been fighting so long for his innocence.”
Channel 11’s news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.