There’s a poignant scene in the documentary Mississippi Innocence in which District Attorney Forrest Allgood, reflecting on the fact that he wrongly convicted two separate men for the rape and murder of two little girls in the early 1990s, tries to mitigate his mistakes. He looks into the camera and says, “At least nobody died.” It’s a striking thing to say. In part because of the way it casually dismisses the fact that Allgood put two men in prison for nearly two decades each, one of whom was nearly executed.
But it’s also inaccurate. As Allgood finishes his sentence, the film cuts to the gravestone of Christine Jackson, the second of the three-year-olds to be sexually assaulted and murdered. If Allgood hadn’t fixated on Levon Brooks after the first murder, and hadn’t enlisted the help of fraudulent forensic specialists Steven Hayne and Michael West to help him get his conviction, he might have been able to identify and convict the real killer, who, for reasons the film explains that are too involved to get into here, should have stuck out as a suspect from the start.
But he didn’t. And so the real killer went on to rape and murder again. And Allgood went on to convict Kennedy Brewer, again the wrong man again, again using Hayne and West, even though the crimes were remarkably similar and occurred just a few miles apart. Allgood then fought like hell to keep both Brooks and Brewer in prison, even as it become obvious to everyone but Allgood that he’d convicted the wrong men.
In 2008, the man who actually killed both little girls, Justin Albert Johnson, was finally identified with DNA testing. This week, he was sentenced to life in prison.
The experience doesn’t appear to have curbed Allgood’s taste for blood.
District Attorney Forrest Allgood said Friday night that he wanted to seek the death penalty for Johnson, but the families of both victims sent letters and asked him not to do so.
“My personal opinion is that anybody that rapes and kills a small child deserves the death penalty,” Allgood said. “… Quite frankly, I would have preferred to have tried him and sought the death penalty.”