Friday, December 28, 2012

Lawyers trying to free convicted murderer

Some people still think Sarah Johnson is innocent


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Sarah Johnson

Though Sarah Johnson was convicted more than seven years ago and sentenced to two life prison terms for the murders of her parents in 2003, some people continue to believe that the former Bellevue resident is innocent.

Johnson, now 25 and an inmate at the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center, was 16 when Allen and Diane Johnson were shot to death in their Bellevue home. According to her sentence, Johnson will never be eligible for parole.

In 2011, Boise attorneys Dennis Benjamin and Deborah Whipple, working pro bono, took up Johnson’s cause, seeking to have her exonerated. They are supported by the Idaho Innocence Project, headed by nationally renowned DNA expert Greg Hampikian, and by fingerprint expert Robert Kerchusky, a former FBI agent who has claimed that fingerprint evidence found in connection with the Johnson case points to another killer.

In April 2012, Benjamin and Whipple filed court documents seeking to have 5th District Court Judge G. Richard Bevan reopen a post-conviction-relief case, wherein Johnson was seeking a new trial. Following a court hearing in December 2010, Bevan had declined in 2011 to grant Johnson a new trial.

In their filings, Benjamin and Whipple argued that some DNA evidence was not tested in the original criminal case, that new analytical methods can now be used to identify other possible suspects and that Johnson has had “ineffective legal counsel” throughout the nine years of court proceedings involving her.

Bevan has yet to order the post-conviction case reopened, but in June determined that Benjamin and Whipple’s arguments deserved further attention and ruled that new legal counsel be appointed for her at Blaine County’s expense.

In July, the case was assigned to the Roark Law Firm in Hailey, whose attorneys Keith Roark and Douglas Nelson have extensive experience in murder cases.

The Roark Law Firm has since filed a motion requesting that Bevan order new DNA tests. The judge has not yet ruled on that motion.


Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



-->
 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2014 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.