april 9, 2014
A Grove City man sentenced to death for a pair of Hocking County murders he did not commit is turning to the Ohio Supreme Court in his bid to be declared wrongfully imprisoned.
Dale Johnston has attempted for more than 20 years to win a court judgment so he could seek monetary damages for the seven years he spent on Death Row before being freed when an appellate court overturned his convictions.
He now is asking the justices to reverse a Feb. 20 ruling by the Franklin County Court of Appeals that threw out a trial-judge’s finding he was illegally detained for the 1982 dismemberment slayings of his stepdaughter and her fiancé.
The appellate judges ruled that the judge erred when he retroactively extended a 2003 change in the wrongful-imprisonment law to Johnston’s case.
Johnston and his lawyer are arguing the appellate ruling, sought by the office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, misinterprets the law and asks the justices to rule in his favor.
“It may be safe to say that no reasonable person in the history of the world would or could review the facts surrounding these gruesome homicides and think anything other than Dale Johnston is and was an innocent man victimized by Ohio’s criminal justice system,” his lawyers wrote in their filing.
Johnston was sentenced to die in the electric chair in 1984 for the shooting deaths of Annette Cooper, 18, and Todd Schultz, 19, whose bodies were cut up and buried in a cornfield and thrown into the Hocking River.
In 2008, Chester McKnight, a drifter and drug addict, confessed to killing the couple and was sentenced to life imprisonment, freeing Johnston to again pursue his quest to be declared wrongfully imprisoned.