A 5th District Court judge has ordered the opening of a new civil court case for convicted murderer Sarah Johnson, effectively allowing the introduction of new arguments intended by Johnson supporters to prove that she is innocent of the murders of her parents in 2003.
Judge G. Richard Bevan signed an order on May 19 opening a new post-conviction relief case for Johnson and closing out an earlier post-conviction case that was filed in 2006. The judge further dismissed motions filed by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office that would have delayed or stayed arguments for Johnson’s exoneration or a new trial.
Johnson, now 27, is currently serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Bevan entered into the new case file a motion filed by Hailey attorney Keith Roark in January, wherein Roark argues that new analytical techniques for DNA evidence could clear Johnson of the murders. While the judge has not ruled on the Roark motion, his order that a new case be opened removes legal technicalities for the motion’s consideration.
Roark could not be reached for comment by press deadline Tuesday, but told the Idaho Mountain Express earlier that the new filing is not connected to earlier motions filed on Johnson’s behalf in the 2006 post-conviction relief case. Those arguments, in which Johnson mainly argued that she had ineffective legal counsel during her murder trial in 2005, have been dismissed by both Bevan in 2011 and by the Idaho Supreme Court in February of this year.
Roark was assigned as legal counsel to Johnson in 2012, following motions filed with Bevan earlier that year by Boise attorney Dennis Benjamin, who specializes in post-conviction relief cases. Benjamin, who worked pro-bono on Johnson’s behalf, first put forward arguments to Bevan that new analytical techniques could prove that someone else committed the murders.
Johnson, now 27, is currently serving two life sentences without the possibility of parole. She was convicted by a jury in 2005 of murdering her parents, Alan and Diane Johnson, at the couple’s home in Bellevue the morning of Sept. 2, 2003. Sarah Johnson was 16 at the time.