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Published: Friday, 1/9/2004

Judge refuses new trial for murderer in '94 case

SANDUSKY — A judge has refused to grant convicted killer DeWitt McDonald a new trial in the 1994 shooting death of a Sandusky woman.

In a judgment entry filed in Erie County Common Pleas Court, visiting Judge John Patton ruled that McDonald, 39, missed a 180-day deadline to file a petition for post-conviction relief. Judge Patton also denied McDonald's claim that the state law setting the deadline is unconstitutional, citing several court rulings that upheld the statute.

McDonald was found guilty in June, 1995, of six felony counts, including aggravated murder, in the death of Vivian Johnson. The 6th District Court of Appeals upheld the conviction in February, 1997.

During a hearing in Novem|ber before Judge Patton, an attorney for McDonald argued that he received ineffective legal counsel at his trial and that evidence showed he was not present when Ms. Johnson was shot. McDonald, who was sentenced to life in prison, has served nearly nine years.

Also convicted in the slaying were Shawn Caston and Daryl Turner. Caston appealed his conviction; he was convicted of a lesser charge and released from prison last year. Turner remains in prison.

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