Gillispie's 'legal saga' could continue for years
He was twice convicted of rape, but a judge ruled second trial unfair.
By Lou Grieco, Staff Writer
December 23, 2011
DAYTON — Roger Dean Gillispie is out of prison, but his legal saga will continue, possibly for years, as his cases work through both the state and federal courts.
“It’s possible that we’ll be stuck in this limbo for two years,” said Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project, who has represented Gillispie for the past several years.
Gillispie, 46, has been tried twice for two August 1988 incidents involving the rapes of three women. Both times, both in 1991, he was convicted.
But U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz found last week that his second trial was unfair and ordered the state to re-try him by July 1. On Thursday, Merz agreed to the state’s request for a stay of that order, pending appeal, but also ordered Gillispie released on bond.
The state filed a notice of appeal of Merz’s decision last week, so that case will move on to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Godsey said Friday that it could take 12 to 18 months for a decision from the appeals court. That decision could then be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but only if that court agrees to hear it.
If Merz’ decision is upheld, then Gillispie could face his third trial for the charges. Asked if he was ready to defend Gillispie in trial, Godsey said, “If we have to, we will.”
Gillispie’s attorneys are also awaiting a decision from the Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals. Gillispie’s attorneys argued before that court Nov. 1 that new evidence concerning an alternative suspect justified a new trial.
Retired Common Pleas Judge A.J. Wagner ruled last year that none of the evidence was admissible under evidence rules, and that even if it was, “the court does not find a strong probability that the cumulative evidence or its individual elements would change the result in a new trial.”
Prosecutors have said that the three victims have never waivered in their identification of Gillispie as their attacker in the two 1988 incidents.
A letter sent to Merz Thursday by Jamie B. Oliver, a victim advocate with the prosecutor’s office, said she had spoken with one of the victims, though the other two were not available. The victim stated that she feared for her safety, and for other women, with Gillispie free.
“She feels particularly vulnerable since an investigator working with Mr. Petro and Mr. Godsey located her in another state, drove to her home, and attempted to persuade her to recant her identification and to convince her that another man was actually her assailant.”
When shown the picture of the “alternative suspect,” the victim told the investigator that he wasn’t her attacker, according to other court filings.
“She is mystified as to why her rock-solid identification, especially when considered with the testimony of the two other victims and after his conviction has been affirmed in state court, is not sufficient to keep him in prison,” Oliver wrote. “(She) is adamantly opposed to the release of the man who raped her.”
With his conviction voided, Gillispie again has the presumption of innocence.
In his decision to release Gillispie on bond, Merz wrote that if Gillispie were innocent, keeping him jailed while awaiting trial would add to his injury. But if he is guilty “he has nonetheless been severely punished up to this point in time.”
Gillispie did not have to put up any money for his release but he will be on electronic home detention.
Under the terms set by Merz, Gillispie must stay in southern Ohio and avoid contact with the victims in the case. He is restricted to his residence at all times except when working, going to school, at religious services, seeking medical treatment, attorney visits, court appearances or other activities pre-approved by the U.S. Pre-trial Services office.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2057 or firstname.lastname@example.org.