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Man sentenced to death in 2004 for murder walks free from prison after conviction gets reversed

Stewart Perrie

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| Last updated 

Man sentenced to death in 2004 for murder walks free from prison after conviction gets reversed

Featured Image Credit: YouTube/Oregon Justice Resource Center

A man convicted of murder nearly two decades ago has walked free from prison after his conviction was overturned.

Jesse Johnson was taken into custody in 1998 on suspicion of stabbing nurse's aide Harriet 'Sunny' Thompson to death in her Oregon home.

He denied being involved in the murder and insisted he was innocent from day one.

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However, he was eventually convicted in 2004 and was sentenced to death.

Johnson was committed to the Oregon State Penitentiary and had to wait until his execution date was set.

In 2011, then Governor John Kitzhaber announced a moratorium on executions, meaning Jesse had to serve out a prison sentence.

He even refused to take a plea deal that would have given him fewer years in jail, according to Sky News.

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But in 2021, the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed its decision to find Johnson guilty.

CBS says it noted that the state failed to interview a neighbor who insisted they saw a white man leaving Thompson's house on the night she was murdered.

None of Johnson's DNA was on any of the tested murder evidence.

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But it wasn't until this week that the Marion County District Attorney's office asked the Marion County Circuit Court to dismiss the case against Jesse Johnson.

It said that 'based upon the amount of time that has passed and the unavailability of critical evidence in this case, the state no longer believes that it can prove the defendant's guilt'.

Steve Wax, Oregon Innocence Project's legal director, said in a statement that this was a huge miscarriage of justice and he even claimed there was racial bias during the investigation.

"There were clear and unambiguous statements of racism by a detective involved in the case who discouraged a neighbor from sharing that she witnessed a White man running away from the scene on the night of the murder," said Wax said.

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"For 25 years, the State of Oregon has fought to defend their deeply flawed case against our former client, Jesse Johnson.

"There can be no more heinous injustice imaginable than for Mr. Johnson to have heard a sentence of death pronounced against him all those years ago in Marion County and to then waste away for years on death row."

Wax has also hit out at the state of Oregon for not giving Johnson any money now that he's a free man.

He said the now 62-year-old has been 'left with absolutely nothing'.

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"He didn't even get the paltry amount of gate money that someone would usually get when released because the dismissal of his case means he isn't entitled to it," Wax said.

However, kind-hearted people have rallied together and have set up a GoFundMe, which has so far raised more than $20,000.

Topics: News, US News, Crime

Stewart Perrie
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