DDC Forensics is in the news again! Dr. Julie Heinig, PhD, Asst. Laboratory Director in charge of Forensics, testified last week on behalf of the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF), presenting DNA testing results in the evidentiary hearing of Derrick Williams, a Palmetto, FL man who was convicted of kidnapping and rape in 1993. Dr. Heinig, a post-conviction DNA expert with extensive experience and success with degraded or otherwise difficult samples, isolated DNA from the shirt worn and abandoned by the true perpetrator 19 years ago. DNA results excluded Williams as a contributor to DNA found on the shirt, which made it “highly likely that [Williams] did not wear the shirt,” Dr. Heinig testified. The court agreed with the IPF’s contentions that newly discovered DNA evidence undermined confidence in the previous guilty verdicts, which were largely based on challenged eyewitness identification.
Manatee County Circuit Court Judge Marc B. Gilner signed an order that vacated Williams’ convictions and granted him a new trial. Now Derrick Williams waits to learn if the state will retry him, appeal the ruling, or simply exonerate him altogether.
Mr. Williams’ case represents DDC’s third collaborative effort in the last 2 years with the Innocence Project of Florida. In December 2009, James Bains of Lake Wales, FL was exonerated based on DNA evidence that DDC processed in his post-conviction case. Last month DDC provided DNA testing in the case involving Jimmy Ates of Baker, FL. DDC continues to provide DNA expertise to Innocence Projects across the country, and thus far has assisted with 6 confirmed guilty and 3 exoneration cases.