Plaintiff: Melvyn A. Johnson

Defendants: Mayor Adrian Fenty, D.C. Office of the Attorney General, Drug Enforcement Administration crime lab, D.C. Department of Corrections

Damages Sought: $1,500,000

Complaint: In 1989, a D.C. detective saw Johnson talking to a woman in an alley, his right hand full of heroin packets. He told the police: “I was buying drugs from the woman. The police saw me buying. She ran. I was buying for my own use.” They didn’t buy that one. He had crack on his person, too, and a lab report came back that rated the heroin at 29 percent purity. Convicted of possession with intent to distribute, Johnson got 30 years. Now, he says, the decimal point got him. “A decimal point was missing 29% from 2.9%,” Johnson writes. “Plaintiff received 30 years because of this mistake. Because of the defendants’ conduct the plaintiff has suffered much for the past 18 years mentally and physically.”

Quality of Representation: Good. Johnson, who is representing himself, explains his case in a concise handwritten paragraph, and he provides a police report so we can see the alleged error. The catch is that he provides no proof that an error was made; he just leaves it to a court to believe him.

Summary Judgment: Show us. If Johnson can provide heroin experts, heroin receipts, heroin paraphernalia, or heroin to substantiate his claim, he will prove the District guilty of a gross oversight. Case is scheduled for bench trial. If plaintiff prevails, defendant agencies must pay stated damages. Agency heads are to be given complimentary copies of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.

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