Dale Johnston was sentenced to death in Hocking County in 1984 and exonerated in 1990
Dale Johnston was sentenced to death for the murders of his stepdaughter and her boyfriend in Hocking County, Ohio.
The conviction rested principally on the testimony of a witness who claimed to have seen a man angrily order a couple to get into his car on a street in the town of Logan. After undergoing hypnosis 19 days after the victims' bodies were found in a cornfield, the witness identified Johnston as the man he had seen from a photograph published in a newspaper. The witness repeated his positive identification at Johnston's trial.
The only other substantial prosecution evidence was the testimony of an anthropologist from North Carolina who claimed that a boot print found near the bodies had been made by Johnston; this witness's methods and integrity ultimately were discredited.
After the Ohio Court of Appeals vacated Johnston's conviction on the ground that the "hypnotically induced testimony was admitted without even minimal demonstration of its reliability," Johnston's attorneys discovered four independent witnesses who had seen the couple walking along railroad tracks near the cornfield and heard gunshots. If these witnesses were correct, the couple whom the hypnotized witness saw in Logan could not have been the victims. The new witnesses had been known to authorities prior to trial, but had not been disclosed to the defense.
The charges against Johnston were dropped. Johnston is Caucasian and so were the victims.