Falsely accused, denied justice
From the Columbus Dispatch, July 7, 2016
Editorial, July 7, 2016
Dale Johnston is an innocent man. The case against him in the grisly 1982 murders of his stepdaughter and her fiancé was shaky from the start. But he served nearly seven years on death row before being freed on appeal in 1990. It turns out the crime scene was never properly secured and Johnston’s statements to police were coerced during an eight-hour police interrogation.
Out of prison, the Grove City man has lived in a different kind of hell: Some thought Johnston was a brutal murderer who got away with it, at least until a drifter in 2008 finally confessed to the crime.
The state hasn’t given Johnston a nickel for his long nightmare, because this would require him first securing a legal finding of actual innocence. With help from the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the state continues to throw legal roadblocks at Johnston to prevent him from collecting damages.
But even DeWine’s office concedes Johnston is innocent.
On Thursday, the Franklin County Court of Appeals again shot down Johnston’s plea for a finding of innocence. Judge Jennifer Brunner dissented, disagreeing with her colleagues who cited a new Supreme Court ruling to block Johnston’s pursuit of an innocence ruling.
Johnston and his attorney must weigh the chances of yet another appeal.
The man is 82. He lost his family. He lost his freedom. But it appears the state is waiting for
Johnston to die before exonerating him. That’s shameful.