Former death row inmate appeals again, seeking to sue state

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A former inmate who spent years on death row for a double murder he didn’t commit asked the Ohio Supreme Court to rule for a second time that he can continue suing the state for wrongful imprisonment.

The high court kept alive Dale Johnston’s decades-long fight for innocence when it ruled last year that a law updating Ohio’s definition of a wrongfully imprisoned individual could be applied retroactively. But a Franklin County appeals court over the summer concluded Johnston can’t sue, based on a ruling in a different wrongful-imprisonment case.

In that case, the appeals court found that errors must have happened after sentencing or imprisonment for an innocence claim to be pursued.

The prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful withholding of evidence in Johnston’s case happened during his trial.

The 82-year-old Grove City man filed his latest appeal last week alleging the appeals court misapplied the law, The Columbus Dispatch reported Friday.

Johnston was imprisoned for the grisly 1982 slayings of his 18-year-old stepdaughter, Annette Cooper, and her 19-year-old boyfriend, Todd Schultz. Both were shot and their bodies were dismembered. The heads and limbs were buried in a cornfield. Their torsos were tossed into a river.

Chester McKnight confessed in 2008 and received a life sentence.

Johnston’s lawyer, Charles Koenig, called the case the most wrongful conviction and imprisonment in the state’s history.

“It may be safe to say that no reasonable person in the history of mankind 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 an overzealous application of Ohio’s criminal justice system,” wrote Koenig.