Clayton Johnson walks as Crown balks at new trial

Nova Scotia Court of Appeal orders new trial for convicted murderer

Clayton Johnson, convicted of murdering his wife nine years ago, is a free man after Nova Scotia's prosecution service decided Monday it would not push for a new trial.

Earlier in the day, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal paved the way for a new trial for Johnson, a man convicted nine years ago of murdering his wife, who died in her home in February 1989 after having fallen down a flight of stairs. Johnson has always insisted he was innocent.

  • February 20, 1989: Janice Johnson is found lying unconscious at the bottom of a set of basement stairs at her home in Shelburne, Nova Scotia. She dies from her injuries in the hospital.
  • May 4, 1993: Johnson's husband, Clayton, is found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for his wife's death.
  • March 8, 1994: The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal unanimously dismisses Clayton Johnson's appeal.
  • February 2, 1995: The Supreme Court of Canada dismisses an application to appeal the case
  • March 31, 1998: Clayton Johnson and the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted submit an application to Canada's Department of Justice to revisit the case. On the same day the CBC program the fifth estate airs an investigative documentary on Clayton Johnson's conviction.
  • April 3, 1998: John Briggs of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is named to assist the Department of Justice in the investigation of Johnson's application.
  • July 30, 1998: The investigation into Johnson's case and application is completed.
  • September 21, 1998: Clayton Johnson is freed after several pathologists conclude the death was the result of a freak accidental fall that resulted in massive, fatal head injuries. The Minister of Justice refers the case to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, noting the power of this court to acquit Johnson, something the minister can't do.
  • February 18, 2002: The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal orders a new trial, overturning the original conviction. Earlier the same day, the Crown had said it will not enter any new evidence. Johnson is a free man.
"Mr. Johnson leaves court today an innocent man," Chief Justice Joe Kennedy said Monday afternoon. 

Johnson was convicted of murder in the beating death of his wife, Janice Johnson, who was found unconscious on Feb. 20, 1989. She was found at the bottom of a flight of stairs at their Shelburne, N.S. home.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has agreed with a joint motion from the Crown and defence, which asked that Johnson's murder conviction be set aside.

Johnson was sentenced to life imprisonment with 25 years to be served before he is eligible for parole. He served five years of his life sentence.

On March 8, 1994, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from Johnson. On Feb. 2, 1995, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an application from Johnson for leave to appeal.