Share This Page

Attorney remembered for integrity, tenacity

| Thursday, May 2, 2013, 9:30 p.m.

Bob Johnston showed great respect for the law in 1980 as a young prosecutor in Allegheny County, Westmoreland County Senior Judge Daniel Ackerman recalled.

Robert I. Johnston, 65, of Greensburg, died Saturday, April 27, 2013, after a five-year battle with cancer.

Ackerman said he and his law partner, Richard Galloway, were defending a homicide suspect when Mr. Johnston displayed professional integrity.

Under a recent change, a defendant's written confession could not be sent back with a jury.

“Here was Bob approaching us during deliberations saying he could not locate the defendant's written confession and admitting it must have mistakenly been sent back along with jurors,” Ackerman said. “What impressed me was that Bob could have kept his mouth shut, no one would have known anything. But he gave up that advantage voluntarily because of his integrity and commitment to the rule of law.”

Shortly after, Mr. Johnston joined the partners' practice in Westmoreland County.

“Bob was an excellent lawyer whose paramount concern was always to protect and advance the integrity of our profession,” Westmoreland President Judge Gary Caruso said.

Mr. Johnston's calm demeanor and humility camouflaged his tenacious spirit, said his wife, Jacque. It took about three years before he got the 2010 diagnosis for pain in his foot and leg.

“He was diagnosed with lung cancer that metastasized into the bones of his left foot and leg,” she said. “Bob fought it for as long as he could. ... He read everything he could on it and tried whatever he could to give him the best chance he had. We did yoga together four days a week for the last five years up until August, when he couldn't do it anymore.”

A friend introduced them. Mr. Johnston was a Duquesne Law School graduate and she was a buyer for Kaufmann's department store. They married in 1977. “When he called for the first date, we talked for hours. He had a great ability to talk and listen to others. ... He was a great communicator, and I'll really miss that,” she said.

One of Mr. Johnston's cases that gained national attention was his 1982 prosecution of Gary Kunish, a Vandergrift bar owner, for killing bartender Jacqueline Simpson. Her body was never found. But Mr. Johnston won a jury verdict of involuntary manslaughter.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by son Adam and his wife, April, and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held May 25 in St. Joseph's Chapel at Seton Hill College.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.