He Spent 16 Months in Solitary, Was Acquitted in 2 Hours

The 'Washington Post' shares Andrew Johnson's story
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 26, 2022 1:35 PM CDT
He Spent 16 Months in Solitary. No One Told Him Why
"There was a narrow cot, a toilet, a sink. The filmy glass on the barred window allowed little sun; the always-on fluorescent ceiling light allowed no darkness," writes Trent of Johnson's cell.   (Getty Images/Toru Kimura)

(Newser) – The heart of Andrew Johnson's story is this: "It would take three years—almost half of it in solitary—before Johnson got the chance to testify in his own defense. It would take just two hours for a jury to acquit him." Writing for the Washington Post, Sydney Trent takes a deep dive into how the Black Army vet, then 26, ended up spending 16 months in solitary. Part of it is fairly straightforward: After being honorably discharged after suffering a traumatic brain injury and PTSD, he moved to San Jose, California, to work as a full-time certified caregiver for an Army friend who was paralyzed in Afghanistan. On the night of Oct. 27, 2014, Johnson went twice to a local shop to get beer and cigar blunts. Both times he encountered the Castro brothers.

They were drunk and, in Johnson's telling, on the second occasion lunged at him with a knife, allegedly pushing him toward oncoming traffic. Johnson fired his gun in self-defense into one brother's hip and another's leg, then headed home. He allows that he probably should have called 911 then, but says he worried about the optics of a Black man with a gun. He was arrested two weeks later and had his bail set at $2 million. He told his parents to put their money toward a top lawyer, not his bail. He was sent to solitary immediately—and it's still unclear why. Neither he nor his parents nor his attorney got an explanation, and "the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the jail and was responsible for the decision, did not respond to several requests for comment," writes Trent. (Read the full story for much more on how it impacted Johnson.)

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