As reported in a Columbus Dispatch 5-day investigative series published in January 2008, “Test of Convictions,” Ohio is in the midst of an unprecedented undertaking to re-examine certain eligible rape and murder convictions statewide. This yearlong investigation by Columbus Dispatch reporters together with the Ohio Innocence Project, a non-profit legal clinic staffed by University of Cincinnati law students and supervised by a team of attorneys, yielded 30 cases with what they considered to be legitimate claims of innocence. The Ohio Innocence Project has since filed motions to have the evidence tested, and the DNA analysis has begun.
DNA Diagnostics Center plays a crucial role in this project because DDC is providing DNA testing for these services at no charge. DDC is strictly interested in the pursuit of justice and is working with both sides of each case as the legal system works to determine each inmate’s guilt or innocence through DNA analysis.
As of June 2008, The Columbus Dispatch has reported that 14 of the 30 eligible cases have been approved for testing by a presiding judge and the prosecutor’s office. After the case has been approved for testing, DDC works with the State of Ohio’s crime and forensics labs to obtain the evidence using strict chain of custody procedures.
When the evidence arrives in our laboratory in Fairfield, Ohio, DDC’s team of scientific experts carefully prepares the evidence for examination, performs any applicable serology tests for fluids or stains, extracts the stain for even the most minute DNA samples that may be present, and analyzes the DNA using the most advanced technology available. Once the DNA analysis is complete, a forensic scientist reviews and interprets the results and consults with the client’s attorneys and the prosecutor’s office to determine if or when next steps should be taken. DDC’s lead forensic scientist, Dr. Julie Heinig, may also be called to testify in court about the DNA evidence should the need arise.
For more information on cases that have been approved for DNA testing, or the Columbus Dispatch’s series, read “The Test of Convictions.” (http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/special_reports/stories/2008/dna/index.html) or visit DDC’s Forensic Team’s website (www.forensicdnacenter.com).