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Attorney remembered for integrity, tenacity

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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.

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