Did media frenzy over Emily Johnson murder lead to Lorenzo Montoya's dubious conviction?

Update incorporated and expanded upon below: Yesterday, the Denver District Attorney's Office announced that Lorenzo Montoya, convicted of first-degree murder and more in the 2000 murder of Denver schoolteacher Emily Johnson, was released on time served after he pleaded guilty to a lesser accessory charge. The attorney for Montoya, who was just fourteen at the time of the crime, says DNA evidence proved her client had nothing to do with the killing (a contention the DA's office disputes), yet he served more than thirteen years for it anyhow.

The coverage of this development has rightly focused on Montoya. But equally important to consider is the media frenzy that surrounded Johnson's death -- a whirl of speculation about strip clubs and double lives denounced by then-Denver mayor Wellington Webb at a press conference celebrating the busts of Montoya and two other teenagers for the crime.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts