Decades before April 22, 2020, the day 35-year-old Joshua Johnson was shot and killed by Harris County deputy Tu Tran, former Texas Southern student Darius Elam was convicted of a crime for which no physical evidence exists linking him to the crime.
Elam has been in prison for 39 years, yet is just as adamant today about his innocence as he was when initially arrested. Johnson can’t speak for himself, but his parents Wilhemina and Richard Beary, along with family spokesperson James Hudson, have continued to demand justice for Joshua.
In both local cases, however, justice has been delayed, and the plight of Johnson and Elam has been overshadowed by higher-profile cases.
RECAP OF CASES
In 2020, the police killings of Ahmaud Arbery (Feb. 23), Breonna Taylor (March 13) and George Floyd (May 25) made national news. Johnson’s killing, however, failed to garner national attention even though Tran, who shot and killed Johnson, gave an account of events through Sheriff’s Department spokesmen that was vehemently refuted by what several residents of the 15000 block of E. Ritter Circle assert they saw.
Yet, a grand jury failed to indict Tran.
Prior to his incarceration, Elam, who had no criminal past, relocated to Houston from Chicago to attend TSU on a track scholarship. Moreover, he was married with newborn twins, along with another child.
According to his brother Samuel, Darius, being a good Samaritan, gave a co-worker, Clarence Richardson, a ride home. While in route, they stopped at the Galleria where Richardson used an altered credit card of Richard Bowen, who was found on May 7, 1983 on Rice University’s campus with a fatal gunshot to his head.
Both men were charged with credit card abuse though Samuel asserts he knew nothing of the credit card. Even more maddening for Darius supporters, Richardson served three years, while Darius received a murder charge, though he was convicted of aggravated robbery.
The two deciding factors in Darius’ conviction are shaky, to say the least, according to Tammie Lang Campbell, founder and executive director of the Honey Brown Hope Foundation, the group that has for the past three years spearheaded efforts to get Darius released: a mystery sheet of yellow paper that was not seen by two separate crime scene investigators or the 28 crime scene photos, yet it appeared 90 days later with Darius’ print, supposedly found in the victim’s truck — after the truck had been returned to the victim’s family and a jailed informant’s testimony that he later recanted.
When Darius requested DNA post-conviction testing, the Houston Police Department (HPD) reported that it destroyed the questionable sheet of paper, the only piece of evidence HPD destroyed. Also, in 2014, post-conviction DNA testing dismissed Darius as a DNA contributor to the remaining evidence items, meaning no physical evidence links Elam to the crime.
Yet, he remains incarcerated.
“I talk to my brother nearly every day, and basically, he’s in fight mode,” said Samuel. “I don’t think he’s feeling sorry for himself to the extent where he’s getting depressed about it. He’s just in fight mode. He knows he’s innocent.”
The wheels of justice stalled for Darius in Judge Joshua Hill’s 232nd District Court of Harris County. Darius’ writ hearing seeking the court’s recommendation to drop the charges based on 2014 post-conviction DNA testing that dismissed Elam as a DNA contributor, was held on July 12, 2019.
“The Court had until Dec. 2, 2019 to render a decision as to whether the judge deems by brother not guilty of the crime and this case should be overturned, and get that to the Court of Appeals,” said Samuel. “It’s been almost two years now, it’s almost December 2021, and we’re still waiting.”
“We have documents to prove that what happened to Joshua Johnson was a coverup,” said Hudson.
Hudson says he has a 500-page report given to him and Congressman Al Green by law enforcement officials that he claims shows irregularities he compares to the Harding Street Raid “where 12 officers were indicted, six of them for falsifying documentation.”
“At some point, we’re going to release this document,” he added.
HOW CAN THE COMMUNITY HELP?
- Visit www.honeybrownhope.org to send emails and sign a petition to pressure Judge Joshua Hill to deliver his decision on the Darius Elam case to the higher court.
- Go to YouTube to watch the play about the Joshua Johnson killing titled “Chapel of Restoration: The Coverup.”
- Read articles on each case at DefenderNetwork.com and other places.
- Share information about both cases via social media.
- Challenge media outlets to publicize and investigate the cases.