Martin Allen Johnson sentenced to life without parole
Martin Allen Johnson, an Aloha man convicted of raping and murdering 15-year-old Heather Fraser of Metzger, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole Thursday, Nov. 14, according to the Washington County District Attorney's Office.
Johnson was found guilty of eight counts of first-degree murder last week following a two-week trial at the Washington County Courthouse.
It was the second time Johnson was found guilty of the murder, which occurred in 1998.
In 2001, Johnson was sentenced to death following his conviction in an original trial. In 2013, he was granted a retrial by a Marion County judge, a decision which the Oregon Supreme Court upheld in 2017, overturning Johnson's conviction. The court ruled that Johnson's attorneys inadequately represented him during his original trial.
The recently concluded retrial was the first trial of its kind in Washington County to be impacted by new limitations on the death penalty passed earlier this year by the Oregon Legislature. Senate Bill 1013 restricted the use of capital punishment, making it more difficult for prosecutors to seek the death penalty. Prosecutors couldn't seek the death penalty for Johnson in the retrial.
Stephen Mayer, a spokesperson for the District Attorney's Office, said Thursday prosecutors are pleased Johnson won't have the opportunity to live outside of state custody.
Johnson's sentencing was initially scheduled for Wednesday, but on Tuesday, his attorneys filed a motion for a mistrial, which was denied by Judge Eric Butterfield.
In the motion, Johnson's attorneys argued in part that a mistrial should be declared because of an argument the state raised for the first time during closing statements, according to court records.
"For the first time, in its rebuttal argument, and after the jury had been provided a copy of the jury instructions, the state argued Heather Fraser may have died of an overdose administered by Martin Johnson," the motion read.
During the trial, the defense said Fraser died of a morphine overdose while she was at Johnson's house because a toxicology report conducted on Fraser after her death showed she had a lethal dose of morphine in her system.
The state argued during the trial that the autopsy report clearly showed Johnson strangled Fraser to death before driving to Astoria and throw her body off the Astoria-Megler Bridge into the Columbia River. Her body was found washed ashore the next day.
In his rebuttal during closing statements last week, prosecutor Bracken McKey said jurors should find Johnson guilty whether they believe Fraser was strangled to death or overdosed on morphine, because Johnson killed her either way.
In the state's response to the motion for a mistrial, prosecutors said their questioning of witnesses justified McKey's closing statements rebuttal.
"The ability to intentionally cause another person's death either by strangulation or by poisoning should not be a surprise to an attorney as experienced as Mr. Smith," prosecutors wrote, referring to Johnson's attorney, Dean Smith.
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