One of the most clear-cut non-DNA exonerations in a death penalty case — that of Dale Johnston in Ohio — is now receiving some much-deserved attention in a new book, Guilty by Popular Demand by Bill Osinski.
Although Johnston’s 1984 convictions in the dismemberment murders of his step-daughter and her boyfriend were overturned and Johnston was released in 1990, many in law enforcement still insisted on his guilt. That changed in 2008, when Chester McKnight confessed that he and an early suspect in the case, Kenny Linscott, had committed the murders. McKnight later changed his story to say he committed the murders by himself and that Linscott only helped him dismember the bodies. McKnight pleaded guilty to the murders and Linscott to abuse of corpse charges, removing all doubt that Johnston was involved.
Osinski documents in his book how hysteria created by ill-founded reports of incest and Satantic sacrifices; the misuse of hypnosis on witnesses, and the bogus testimony of a forensic fraud — in this case alleged footprint expert Louise Robbins — can lead to a horrible injustice.
Johnston is still fighting to win compensation for the years he spent on death row while fighting to prove his innocence. If there is any justice, Osinski’s book will help spur his case to a successful conclusion.