Wrongly convicted man set free in Nova Scotia
Nine years and half a million dollars in legal bills later, Nova Scotia carpenter Clayton Johnson was finally cleared Monday of murdering his wife.
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal overturned Johnson's 1993 first-degree murder conviction, and ordered a new trial. But when the Crown said it had no new evidence to offer and would not proceed, Johnson was declared a free man.
It was the end of a 13-year ordeal for the former high school teacher an ordeal that began in February, 1989 when a neighbour found Johnson's wife Janice dying at the bottom of a flight of stairs in the couple's Shelburne, N.S. home.
Johnson insisted he was on his way to school at the time, and the death was ruled accidental. But later, pathologists decided that the head injuries of which she died had been caused not by a fall, but by either a baseball bat or a two-by-four.
|JOHNSON TRIAL CHRONOLOGY|
The case gained widespread attention it was the subject of at least two documentaries and attracted interest from forensic pathologists from all over the world.
He spent five years in jail before being released in 1998, after several of those experts agreed Janice's head wounds were likely caused not by a weapon, but by a freak, accidental fall.
It was their findings that prompted the province's Appeal Court to order a new trial Monday.
Smiling broadly and embracing his parents and two daughters, Johnson left the court room to be met by dozens of well-wishers and a throng of reporters.
Despite his ordeal, Johnson insisted he was neither bitter, nor disillusioned with the justice system.
"Going back to my trial, they only had what evidence they had to work with," Johnson said. "If they'd had everything, it would have been a different story.
"You've got to have faith in the justice system, otherwise the world's going to fall apart."
Johnson said Monday he hasn't yet decided whether to sue the province for damages. His legal bills are over $500,000.