Bipartisan Ohio House Bill 411 bill was signed into law in December and it should finally allow for a former death row prisoner innocent of the murder for which he was convicted in Hocking County to receive wrongful imprisonment compensation.
The conviction against Dale Johnston had been reversed by the Fourth District Appellate Court, in part, due to the withholding of evidence, known as a Brady violation.
After Johnston spent four years on Death Row, the case against him was transferred to Franklin County.
The key evidence for the prosecution was the testimony of a hypnotized witness and “analyzer” of muddy footprints. The State of Ohio released Johnston from imprisonment in 1990.
Years later, someone provided information to their probation officer which reopened the investigation of the two murders for which Johnston was falsely accused, and two men responsible were convicted in 2008.
Johnston, declared innocent, was still denied compensation due to a Brady hitch in the law.
The legislature has now recognized the impact of Brady violations on the accused and need to provide eligibility for compensation to the innocent whose convictions were also tainted by Constitutional violations.
It’s easy for law enforcement officers and prosecutors to choose not to provide all of the records of interviews, statements, etc. that they have compiled or know about, because how possible is it for defense attorneys to know what they don’t know? There’s not much more than the Brady law policing the police and it’s often evaded.
Even when a law enforcement officer provides a statement of facts regarding an alleged crime, but then provides contrary and conflicting facts regarding their previously provided facts, he/she has withheld evidence in the name of the state — a Brady violation.
And no matter how much time goes by after a conviction when those responsible learn of the same contrary and conflicting facts, they are bound by law to produce the withheld evidence to the court. But then, such an honorable act is just as easy for dishonorable persons to ignore.
Melanie A. Ogle