Judge denies Oregon murderer’s request for post-conviction DNA t - KPTV - FOX 12

Judge denies Oregon murderer’s request for post-conviction DNA testing

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Jesse Lee Johnson (Oregon Department of Corrections) Jesse Lee Johnson (Oregon Department of Corrections)
SALEM, OR (KPTV) -

A Marion County judge has denied a murderer’s request for post-conviction DNA testing.

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Channing Bennett denied Jesse Lee Johnson’s motion Monday.

Johnson was convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death for the 2004 killing of Harriet “Sunny” Laverne Thompson on March 28, 1998.

Johnson's conviction and death sentence were automatically reviewed by the Oregon Supreme Court as required by Oregon Law. In 2007, the court affirmed Johnson's conviction and death sentence, according to the Marion County District Attorney’s Office.

Johnson pursued another challenge to his conviction in 2008, but after seven years of litigation, the post-conviction court denied his challenge in May 2015.

The following year, the Oregon Innocence Project was court-appointed at Johnson’s request. Attorneys from the Oregon Innocence Project filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing in November 2016.

The request was taken under advisement last October, but Monday’s denial was based on the failure to “articulate a ‘theory of defense’ or make a case that DNA testing would lead to a finding of innocence,” according to the Marion County District Attorney’s Office.

Judge Bennett noted that the evidence at the jury trial in 2004 "focused on Defendant's denial that he knew the victim, his denial that he had been in the victim's apartment, his confession made to a drug dealer, Defendant's possession of the victim's jewelry shortly after the crime, Defendant's palm print and thumb print found on items at the crime scene and a witness who described someone similar to the Defendant being outside the crime scene on the night of the murder. Further DNA testing of the items identified by the Defendant would not controvert any of this evidence."

The Marion County District Attorney’s Office reported being in contact with the victim’s family throughout the entire process.

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