Four years after Roger Dean Gillispie had his conviction overturned and was released from prison, Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Steven Dankof blocked prosecutors from re-trying the Fairborn man for the 1988 rape and kidnapping of three women.
It is the latest ruling in a legal battle that has dragged on for 24 years but it still might not be the end. Greg Flannagan, spokesman for Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck, said the ruling will be appealed.
Gillispie, 50, of Fairborn, has always maintained his innocence and there was never any physical evidence tying him to the two attacks on three women. Nonetheless, he was convicted in February 1991 and again in June 1991 based largely on victim testimony.
The Ohio Innocence Project, a legal clinic at the University of Cincinnati law school, took on Gillispie’s case in 2003 and former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro joined the legal team as a pro bono attorney in 2007. Petro and his wife, Nancy, later co-wrote a book about Gillispie and wrongful convictions.
In December 2011, U.S. District Court Magistrate Michael Merz overturned Gillispie’s conviction, ruling that he had not received a fair trial since supplemental police reports had not been turned over to the defense. Gillispie was released from prison after serving more than 20 years.
Dankof concluded that the state court cannot re-litigate the conclusions reached by Merz and the state is unable to come up with the missing police reports.
Heck’s office disagrees and issued the following statement: “The three victims in this case have never wavered in their identification of Gillispie as the man who kidnapped them in broad daylight, held them captive, and raped them at gunpoint. Two juries have found him guilty. The Montgomery County prosecutor’s office disagrees with the decision issued today by the trial judge dismissing the indictment. The judge reached this decision by finding himself bound by a 2011 decision issued by a federal magistrate. Today’s decision fails to address the legal issues at the heart of the matter and is at odds with several issues already decided by the state court of appeals. ”
Ohio Innocence Project Director Mark Godsey said: “It was the right decision and Judge Dankof should be commended for doing the right thing. Dean Gillispie is innocent and we are heartened that this terrible injustice is finally coming to an end.”
The Innocence Project said its goal now is to expunge Gillispie’s record and remove him from sex offender lists.