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Killer of Metzger teen could get a new trial

Appeals court says Martin Johnson didn't get proper defense


The re-trial of an Aloha man convicted of murdering a Metzger teenager is slowly making its way toward court.

Martin Allen Johnson has been on death row since 2001, convicted of aggravated murder in the death of 15-year-old Heather Fraser.

A court ruled in 2013 that Johnson should have his case re-tried, but nearly two years after the decision, Johnson’s trial has yet to begin.

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Don Dickery ruled in 2013 that Johnson did not receive a proper defense during his 2001 aggravated murder trial.

Jeff Premo, the superintendent of Oregon State Penitentiary, appealed that decision, saying that Johnson should not receive a new trial. Johnson has also cross-appealed.

It’s now up to the Oregon Court of Appeals to decide the matter.

“There won’t be decision tomorrow for sure,” said Lora Keenan, a staff attorney at the court. “My guess is that there won’t be a decision until after February.”

Two briefs are expected to be filed in February from the superintendent’s office. From there, Johnson will have the chance to reply before the Court of Appeals makes its ruling.

Johnson was convicted of drugging, raping and strangling Fraser and then dumping her remains off the Astoria-Megler Bridge into the Columbia River in the middle of the night.

Johnson told police that the two had done drugs at his Aloha home together and he had passed out. When he awoke, he found she had overdosed. After trying to resuscitate her, he wrapped her body in a blanket, put it in the trunk of his car and drove to the Oregon Coast, where he disposed of the body.

But Johnson’s lawyer didn’t use that story in court. Instead, the lawyer relied on getting Johnson off on a technicality, telling jurors that Johnson did indeed murder Fraser, but should be acquitted anyway because the trial should be heard in Clatsop County, instead of Washington County.

“That defense was essentially ‘(Johnson) killed Heather Fraser, but he did not kill her in the county alleged in the indictment,’” Dickey wrote in his 2013 ruling.

No toxicology test to corroborate his story was ever done by Johnson’s attorneys. Johnson’s lawyers instead relied on the testimony of an expert who said Fraser had been alive when she was thrown from the bridge and drowned in the river.

Fraser’s body washed up on shore in Warrenton on Feb. 24, 1998, a day after she was reported missing from her home on Southwest Taylors Ferry Road.

The case

Johnson has been prolific in his defense. He has filed briefs both through his attorney and on his own - the Oregon Supreme Court even stepped in at one point, saying that Johnson had the right to mount his own defense, but not if he were also using an attorney.

Johnson was accused of preying on several underage girls, meeting them through fake petitions to lower the drinking age. According to investigators, Johnson would befriend the girls, take them to nightclubs, provide them with alcohol and drugs, and later have sex with them.

During his trial, some of his victims testified that Johnson would slip drugs into their drinks to knock them out or put chemically soaked rags over their faces. They would wake to Johnson sexually assaulting them.

According to police, Johnson supplied Fraser with alcohol and drugs. A coroner later revealed that Fraser had engaged in sex with Johnson before her death.

Fraser had reportedly gone to Johnson’s home in Aloha on Feb. 23, 1998, to use the Internet.

Johnson had been spotted driving south on Highway 30, a principal road between Warrenton and Portland, and had been stopped by police.

Johnson was interviewed by authorities after Fraser’s body was discovered. The following day, he disappeared, stealing his brother’s car and credit cards. He wasn’t spotted again for almost a year until a segment aired on the TV series “America’s Most Wanted” in 1999 and Johnson was found living near Orlando, Fla.

During his disappearance, a bloodstain on Johnson’s car was later matched to Fraser’s DNA.

At the time of his arrest, Johnson was also wanted on a slew of other serious felony charges. In Multnomah County, he was wanted on one count of first-degree rape, one count of first-degree sex abuse, five counts of third-degree rape, three counts of third-degree sodomy and three counts of using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct. He also faced charges in Clackamas County of third-degree rape and two counts of third-degree sex abuse.

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