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Archive for November, 2014

DDC Forensics is Honored by Ohio Innocence Project at Tenth Anniversary Gala

Friday, November 21st, 2014

DDC Forensics is Celebrated as Key Contributor to OIP’s Success
DNA Diagnostics Forensics, a Division of DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC), one of the world’s largest DNA testing companies, was honored at Ohio Innocence Project’s (OIP) tenth Anniversary Gala, celebrating freedom for those exonerated, and the organizations that have contributed to the effort. Approximately 400 supporters attended the event held Saturday, October 25, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati—raising over $150,000 to OIP’s cause. Cincinnati’s Mayor John Cranley, and co-founder of OIP, was the master of ceremonies and presided over the event; and exonerated citizen, Robert McClendon, awarded DDC’s President and CEO, Peter Vitulli with the honor on behalf of the company. To date, DDC’s testing for OIP includes more than 30 cases, resulting in the exonerations of Ohio residents, Robert Towler, Robert McClendon, Douglas Prade and Dewey Jones. Working with other Innocence Projects on post-conviction cases throughout the United States, DDC Forensics has provided DNA testing that resulted in the exonerations of Florida citizens James Bains, Derrick Williams and Cheydrick Britt, and Kentucky Innocence Project client, Kerry Porter.

During the event, Mayor Cranley lauded DDC as “an exceptional organization that has risen to the occasion in OIP’s fight for justice. In 2005, DDC offered pro bono DNA testing on all OIP casework, and today, that charitable donation of time, staffing, and resources is still in effect. No other lab in the country has extended this amount of good will to our organization, and for that we will be forever grateful to DDC.” In addition, each year DDC welcomes the University of Cincinnati College of Law professors, staff attorneys, and students to its Fairfield, Ohio laboratory and provides training in forensic DNA and legal applications in post-conviction cases.

After the ceremony, DDC’s Peter Vitulli looked back at the event and OIP’s history, stating “OIP’s tireless work to pass legislation to reduce wrongful convictions has made Ohio a national model for other states and countries to enact reforms to fight the problem of wrongful convictions. On behalf of my staff at DDC, it was an honor to receive this award from the OIP, and it was especially poignant that exonerated citizen, Robert McClendon, recited his poem, “Hello Truth” before presenting me with the award. Without a doubt every member of my team is proud to be working with the OIP, knowing that our efforts are helping to change people’s lives to secure justice. We look forward to continuing our work with the OIP for many years to come.”

OIP has been a role model to other innocence projects across the country, as the agency wrote and promoted Ohio Senate Bill 77, aimed at reducing wrongful convictions—with reforms in eyewitness identification procedures, police interrogation practices, expanded access to DNA testing and mandate crime scene DNA evidence preservation. SB 77 became law in July, 2010 and was called by the legislature ‘the most important piece of criminal justice legislation in Ohio in a century, thus becoming the model for national innocence reform.’

DNA Diagnostics Center Forensics Team Help to Prove Dewey Jones’ Innocence of 20-Year Murder Charge

Friday, November 21st, 2014

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office Dismisses Case Based on DNA Testing Conducted By DNA Diagnostics Center
According to Summit County Common Pleas Court, Case #1994-06-1409C on Thursday, January 30, 2014, Judge Mary Margaret Rowland dismissed aggravated murder and robbery charges against Dewey Jones, an Akron, OH man convicted in 1995 of the high-profile murder of Neil Rankin. A family friend and neighbor of Jones, 71-year old retired Mr. Rankin was robbed and shot inside his home on Feb. 13, 1993.

Evidence from the crime scene, an unknown sample of male blood on a piece of nylon rope used to tie Rankin’s wrists, a knife used to cut the rope and a section of Rankin’s shirt, were identified by the Forensics team at DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) in Fairfield, Ohio, led by Dr. Julie Heinig, the Forensic Director and DNA Technical Leader. DDC utilized leading edge technology to identify DNA from these difficult, 20 year old samples. None of the DNA matched Dewey Jones, prompting Judge Rowlands to grant Jones a new trial and said the DNA of another suspect, “calls into question the state’s entire theory of the case.” Jones was then transferred to the Summit County Jail, released in December 2013 under house arrest pending a trial that will no longer happen. Finally last week, Mr. Jones was freed from his electronic monitoring device into the arms of his family. Carrie Wood, Mr. Jones’ attorney with the Ohio Innocence Project noted the importance of accessing the latest advancements in DNA technology saying, “Mr. Jones’ case demonstrates the importance of using leading edge platforms, like miniSTR (AmpFlSTR® MiniFiler™ PCR Amplification Kit ). DDC’s experience and knowledge with this methodology proved critical in obtaining exculpatory DNA results. Dr. Heinig and her team are a valuable resource to us and we are endlessly appreciative of her DNA expertise.” Mr. Jones is also represented by the law firm of Loevy & Loevy and the Exoneration Project. Staff attorney David Owens remarks, “DNA supports Dewey Jones’ claims of innocence and we hope that the case will be dismissed with prejudice, eliminating any fear that the state could review the case further and proceed with a second trial. The DNA evidence strongly supports his full exoneration.” The Ohio Attorney General is arguing that the case should be dismissed without prejudice. Attorneys for both sides will submit briefs by February 10, 2014 for the judge’s final decision.

Dewey Jones’ case was one of 30 cases selected in 2008 from more than 300 by the OH Innocence Project and The Columbus Dispatch initiative to identify cases most worthy of post-conviction DNA testing. DDC partnered with OIP to provide the laboratory testing, and to date, there are 5 Ohio men freed as a result. Nationwide, DDC Forensics has assisted in the exoneration of 8 men who have served between 9 and 35 years for crimes they did not commit. Guilt was confirmed in 13 of the post-conviction cases that DDC tested, and other cases continue to proceed through the justice system to long-awaited resolution.

Says Dr. Julie Heinig, “DNA testing proves over and over that it is a powerful tool to help uncover the truth. This exoneration is the 8th such case that DDC has proven an inmate’s innocence, and its value is especially evident in Innocence Project cases like this where it helps a wrongfully convicted man be set free.” Peter Vitulli, President and CEO of DDC said, “I am honored that Dr. Heinig and her forensics team were able to help change the outcome for Mr. Jones, reminding us all in the power in DNA testing. Since 2008, DDC has successfully assisted with eight exonerations, and provides DNA expertise across the country. Our world-class facility and testing methods allow the science to provide the impetus for freeing innocent people, and we celebrate with Mr. Jones and his family.”

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