As Nancy Petro reported yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court declined jurisdiction yesterday in the state’s appeal in the case of Roger Dean Gillispie (a case featured in the book False Justice). This means that Dean’s conviction for rape is finally thrown out for good. At this point, the prosecution can choose to retry him if they wish. We are waiting to hear what the next step will be.
The Ohio Innocence Project worked on this case beginning in January 2003. It took us 9 years of investigation and litigation to finally free Dean in December 2011. Dean kept sane in prison by painting, and by dreaming about the day he would be able to finally be able to go fishing once again. Each time I visited Dean in prison, which was probably more than 30 visits over the years, we talked about fishing. Dean and I are about the same age, and we both grew up fishing with our Dads from a very young age. It is a part of our common background, our makeup, and our sentimental feelings of childhood.
Dean would ask me where I had fished recently and I would fill him in on all the details of my various fishing trips. He always listened intently. I couldn’t bring pictures into the prison, so I’d have to describe the fish in great detail. It was clear to me that he kept his love of fishing alive by vicariously living through me. In about 2007, he gave me this painting that he did for me in prison, which has hung on the wall in my office ever since:
After Dean was released last year, I got the true honor of taking Dean fishing at Lake Erie, on a trip similar to what I had described to him for years. During that trip, he caught the very same fish that he painted for me. He released it back into the water, and gave it its freedom, as he always does now:
Dean has gone fishing with his father, now retired, nearly every single day since his release. Recently, his brother bought him a used boat, which Dean stayed up for many nights in a row cleaning and getting into working condition. Now it is finally ready to go, just in time for the Ohio Supreme Court’s ruling. Congratulations to Dean on many more days of freedom and fishing.