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Man Wrongly Imprisoned on Death Row for 28 Years May Sue Ohio

Dale Johnston was convicted of murdering his stepdaughter and her boyfriend and sentenced to death. The decision of a three-judge panel in 1984 was based in part on testimony from a hypnotized witness. He always denied having had an affair with his stepdaughter and having murdered them in a jealous rage--the prosecutor's theory of the case.

In 1993, Johnson filed a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit from death row. It was dismissed because Johnson was unable to prove his innocence.

In 2008, the actual murderer confessed to the crimes. In 2012, Johnson was declared innocent by a county court. The judge ruled that he could seek compensation for wrongful imprisonment, but that ruling was soon overturned by an appeals court which held that he could not attempt to prove wrongful imprisonment a second time.

On October 28, 2015, the Supreme Court of Ohio reversed the ruling of the appeals court, holding that a 2003 statute retroactively authorizes Johnson to seek compensation. This allowed him to maintain his lawsuit.

Attorney Todd Long, who represents Johnson, called the ruling "a good step" and noted that state attorneys "have tried to raise every procedural roadblock that they can," adding, "I hope they change their attitude."

"If I am able to get everything that the state says I'm allowed to have, that' still an insult when you figure what I lost," said Johnson.

An April 2014 Christian Science Monitor article noted that "at least four percent of death sentences in the U.S. send an innocent person to death row" and advocated for reforms in eyewitness identification protocols, requiring police to videorecord interrogations, increasing punishment for unethical prosecutors and improving the public defender system to help prevent wrongful convictions. Source: