Death Row Inmate Freed After Decision Reversed — 17 Years Later

Death Row Decision REVERSED - Freedom AFTER 17 Long Years!


An individual from Oregon, who had been incarcerated for more than ten years on death row, has been set free. Jesse Johnson, who was found guilty of a murder charge in 2004 and subsequently given a death sentence, had his conviction overturned on appeal in 2021. Finally, he has regained his freedom.

In 1998, a nurse’s aide named Harriet Thompson, who was affectionately known as “Sunny,” tragically lost her life due to a stabbing incident in her residence in Salem, Oregon. Johnson was apprehended one week following the crime due to a parole violation, and investigative authorities discovered his fingerprints and a cigarette butt containing his DNA inside Thompson’s apartment. 

Subsequently, in 2004, he was found guilty of her murder. The jury recommended the death penalty, but Johnson consistently asserted his innocence and declined a plea agreement. For the ensuing 17 years, he remained on death row at the Oregon State Penitentiary, even though then-Governor John Kitzhaber (D) implemented a suspension on executions in 2011.

Subsequently, in the year 2021, Johnson’s legal case was brought before the Oregon Court of Appeals. The court determined that crucial evidence, which could have been significant for his defense, had not been presented during his original trial. This evidence included the account of a neighbor who had witnessed a white individual—Johnson, being of African American descent—fleeing from the scene of the murder shortly after hearing signs of a disturbance within Thompson’s residence. 

The neighbor, Patricia Hubbard, mentioned that she had informed a police officer about this observation but was advised against making an official statement. Based on this newfound evidence, the appeals court mandated a fresh trial and allotted the state a 35-day window to contest this decision if desired.

In the previous year, Governor Kate Brown (D) took action by commuting all 17 remaining death sentences in Oregon and ordering the demolition of the state’s execution chamber. Meanwhile, legal authorities persisted in exploring avenues for a retrial. However, they eventually abandoned their efforts. 

On September 5, the Marion County District Attorney’s office submitted a request to the county circuit court to dismiss the case, citing that due to the substantial passage of time, the state no longer had confidence in its ability to establish the defendant’s guilt. On that very day, 25 years after his initial arrest, Johnson was released from incarceration.