November 7 – A Jackson County man convicted of raping a child died at age 71 at Snake River Correctional Facility, where he had been imprisoned since 2006.
John Francis Ross died Sunday afternoon at the Oregon East Jail. As with all in-custody deaths, Oregon State Police have been notified and the state medical examiner will determine the cause of death, Oregon Department of Corrections officials said. .
The earliest possible release date for Ross was August 26, 2029, the department said.
Ross, a White City resident, was arrested in 2004 by Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputies on suspicion of repeatedly molesting a child in 2003 and 2004. He was 53 at the time of his arrest, according to a old Mail Tribune article.
According to Jackson County Circuit Court documents, Ross pleaded not guilty to a series of charges and was tried in 2005. A jury found him guilty of first-degree rape of a child under 12. years between June 2003 and June 2004, plus two counts. of first degree sodomy, six counts of first degree sexual abuse and two counts of possession of sexually explicit material of a child. He was acquitted of another charge of attempting to lure a second child into sexual activity.
Ross filed a series of appeals of his conviction, including one in 2020 when he argued through his lawyer that he falsely confessed to the crimes while under the influence of the aide to sleep Ambien and other psychotropic drugs. He was also taking Viagra, an erectile dysfunction drug, according to his appeal.
The appeal said the federal Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in 2019 that people taking Ambien may enter a sleepwalking state when they engage in activities while still asleep.
“Patients who engage in such activities do so in a blackout with no conscious memory of having done them. These sleep-related behaviors include driving, preparing meals, smoking, painting, and sexual activity” , indicates the call.
The appeal said Ross was unaware of the potential side effects of Ambien until recently, so he could not have raised that claim earlier in his defense.
“As a result of taking Ambien, the effects of which were potentially enhanced by his ingestion of other prescription medications, the petitioner falsely confessed to crimes he did not commit. is committed to the acts alleged, he did so in an Ambien power failure and did not have the mental state required for criminal liability. The petitioner is in fact innocent of the crimes which resulted in his false conviction”, a declared the call.
A judge ruled that even if Ross had taken Ambien and falsely confessed in his sleep, he would have quickly realized he had confessed. Ross could have objected quickly instead of years later.
The judge said there was overwhelming evidence that Ross had indeed committed the sex crimes against the child.
Court documents show Ross said he learned of Ambien’s side effects by watching an interview with comedian Roseanne Barr on television.
Barr said she was “tweeting Ambien” when she posted a racist remark on Twitter in the middle of the night. ABC canceled its “Roseanne” sitcom after the message.
His tweet prompted the company that makes Ambien to respond that racism is not a known side effect of the sleep aid.
In general, intoxication with a prescription drug, alcohol, or street drug does not absolve people of their guilt in criminal cases.
Contact Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.