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.”