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Applying for DNA testing in Ohio: an uphill battle
Posted: December 17, 2007 12:50 pm
A report published yesterday in the Lebanon (Ohio) Western Star examines the difficulties faced by convicted defendants in Ohio applying for DNA testing that could potentially prove their innocence. Of the 315 Ohio cases in which a defendant has requested DNA testing to prove innocence, courts have granted testing to only 19 people, with 66 cases awaiting rulings. Prosecutors have fought testing in most cases, based on legal grounds or due to lost or destroyed evidence (Ohio doesn’t have an evidence preservation law). Ohio is one of the 42 states with a post-conviction DNA testing law, but these numbers indicate that even among these states the path to testing isn’t always easy.
Ohio's DNA testing law, revised and made permanent last year, also closes the door to many potential applicants, including ex-convicts trying to clear their names and anyone who pleaded guilty. Another hurdle: Inmates must demonstrate that the testing would change the outcome of their trials.Does your state have a post-conviction DNA access law? What are the restrictions? Find out with our interactive map.
Read the full story here. (Western Star, 12/17/07)
Tags: Ohio, Access to DNA Testing
Test of Convictions: An Ohio investigative report
Posted: January 28, 2008 5:41 pm
A five-part investigative series this week in the Columbus Dispatch uncovers major flaws in the way the criminal justice system in Ohio uncovers and overturns wrongful convictions.
The flaws have ruinous consequences for inmates, victims and society at large.The Columbus Dispatch reviewed hundreds of requests for DNA testing and found that they are often denied without cause. The series also found that Ohio’s law granting post-conviction DNA testing is inadequate.
Presented with The Dispatch's findings, Gov. Ted Strickland immediately called for a compete overhaul that would speed up the review process, open up testing to more inmates and establish statewide standards for preserving evidence.
"It's not honoring the victim to take the chance that an innocent person is paying the price for victimizing them, because the flip side of the coin is that means the guilty party has escaped justice," Strickland said.
"It's just a matter of trying to do everything we can to be as careful and as accurate as we possibly can be.”
Convicts lose their chance for a DNA test when they are released from prison, whether they leave on parole or in a hearse.Read the first two articles in the series and view special online features.
Ohio is among 15 states that require a person to be alive and in prison to qualify. Had that restriction been in place nationally, it would have prevented clearing the names of at least 22 men wrongly convicted of rape or murder.
If Ohio allowed for expanded DNA testing, the number of exonerations "would be higher, there's just no question," said Stephen Saloom, policy director of the Innocence Project of New York."You've got to ask: Who benefits from refusing to learn whether or not an innocent person was convicted of a serious crime? Nobody benefits -- except the real perpetrator. Everyone else loses."
Tags: Ohio, Access to DNA Testing
Ohio investigative series identifies 30 inmates in need of DNA tests
Posted: January 31, 2008 2:10 pm
The final stories in a five-day investigative report by the Columbus Dispatch ran today, and the results are being felt across the country. Today’s story focuses on 30 prisoners identified by the newspaper and the Ohio Innocence Project as candidates for DNA testing that could overturn their convictions if it proves innocence. Public defenders and attorneys at the Ohio Innocence Project began today to file appeals for testing in the cases of the 30 prisoners. And an Ohio lab, DNA Diagnostics Center, will perform any approved testing for free.
The Dispatch, as part of a yearlong investigation, gathered public records and built files on the 313 cases in which Ohio prisoners applied for a DNA test under an old law, which stymied nearly everyone. Advocates hope that modest changes to the law in 2006 have created new opportunities for them.Through consultation with the Ohio Innocence Project, a legal clinic based at the University of Cincinnati, The Dispatch identified prospects for testing.This week’s series covered the cases of inmates unable to secure DNA testing, others whose evidence is lost, others who were released but remain labeled as sex offenders, and drew important feedback from the Ohio Governor and others. Read the stories, watch videos and learn more here.
Tags: Ohio, Access to DNA Testing
New Ohio coalition calls for criminal justice reform
Posted: February 25, 2008 3:42 pm
A report delivered to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland last week by leaders from across the state’s criminal justice system calls for lawmakers to address wrongful convictions with a package of reforms proven to prevent injustice. The report, delivered by the state’s head public defender, a former attorney general and the director of the Ohio Innocence Project, suggests statewide standards for evidence preservation, eyewitness identification procedures, recording of interrogations and crime lab oversight.
"We need to establish additional safeguards to make sure this stuff doesn't happen here," said former Attorney General Jim Petro, a Republican who while in office pushed for DNA testing that freed a man wrongfully convicted of rape and murder.
Ohio Public Defender Tim Young agreed. "Make a list of the worst things that can happen in life, and being locked in prison for a crime you didn't do is near the top of that list. We have a fundamental responsibility, especially with DNA evidence, to make sure justice was done."
Read the full article, and view maps of other reforms passed around the country to address and prevent wrongful convictions. (Columbus Dispatch, 02/24/2008)
Tags: Ohio, Innocence Commissions, False Confessions, Eyewitness Identification, Evidence Preservation, Access to DNA Testing
DNA tests point to Ohio man’s innocence
Posted: October 6, 2008 4:19 pm
Robert Caulley has been in prison since 1997 for the murder of his parents – a crime he says he didn’t commit. He was the first to report the crime, calling police to tell them he found his parents bludgeoned to death in their Grove City, Ohio, home. But three years after the crime, police focused on Caulley as a suspect. Although he repeatedly asked for an attorney, he was interrogated for 12 hours, and allegedly made a statement admitting guilt. He says that statement was coerced and he is innocent.
Now new DNA test results in the case could prove that he’s right. DNA from an unknown person has been found on a gun found in the house, which also had blood from Caulley’s father on it. Caulley’s attorneys are seeking to run the new unknown profile in a federal database and also test it against two possible alternate suspects.
Caulley said watching another Columbus man freed in August (Robert McClendon) after DNA proved him innocent put his own "uphill battle" in perspective.
"It does give me hope, because you see things do change and get corrected," Caulley, 43, said in an interview yesterday at the North Central Correctional Institution.Read the full story here. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/04/08)
Also in Ohio, authorities are planning to run in the database a DNA profile from a 1990 rape case in which Brian Piszczek was wrongfully convicted. Piszczek spent three years in prison before DNA testing proved his innocence, but it wasn’t until recently that a Columbus Dispatch investigation again sparked interest in checking the database for the real perpetrator in the case. In nearly 40 percent of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA, the evidence also leads to the identity of the real perpetrator.
Today marks the 14th anniversary of Piszczek's exoneration. Read more about his case here. (Columbus Dispatch, 10/05/08)
Read about dozens of other possible wrongful convictions in the Dispatch’s five-part series “Test of Convictions”.
Tags: Ohio, Brian Piszczek
Preservation Statutes Urged in New Jersey and Ohio
Posted: November 7, 2008 4:05 pm
DNA testing has changed the American criminal justice system forever – helping to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and solve cold cases. But DNA tests can only be conducted if evidence is saved. As two articles this week noted, evidence preservation laws around the country have lagged behind advances in DNA testing technology and opportunities for justice are routinely – and tragically – destroyed.
Jim McCloskey of Centurion Ministries told the New Jersey-Star Ledger this week about the case of Louis Thomas, who was convicted of a murder and rape he said he didn’t commit.. McCloskey investigated the case and began to believe that Thomas was wrongfully imprisoned, only to learn that biological evidence in Mr. Thomas’s case – and many others - had not been preserved.
‘A month before I came into the case and 27 years after the crime, the evidence custodian had petitioned the district attorney to destroy the evidence in 100 old cases, including our guy’s,’ McCloskey said.Advanced technology allows the Innocence Project and others to conduct tests in cases that are decades old, but countless innocent people will never get a chance at DNA testing because evidence in their case has been discarded.
New Jersey does not have a state law requiring the preservation of evidence. Decisions about the destruction of evidence are therefore left to the police or prosecutors in each local jurisdiction.
New Jersey Assemblyman Gordon M Johnson wants to see this changed and has introduced legislation that will require biological evidence from crime scenes to be preserved for a defendant’s lifetime. And Innocence Project Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin pointed out that many Innocence Project cases are closed because biological evidence has been lost or destroyed.
"In any type of civilized society based on fairness and justice, it's inconceivable that states are allowed to throw away evidence while a person is still in prison," Potkin said.
Read the full story here. (Newark Star-Ledger 11/03/08)And an editorial this week in the Cleveland Plain Dealer urges state lawmakers to pass House Bill 218, which was proposed this summer to require the "collection, maintenance, preservation and analysis of DNA specimens.” The Plain Dealer cites the case of Brian Piszczek, who was released in 1994 after DNA testing proved he didn't commit the rape that put him behind bars for three years. In Piszczek’s case, the city of Brook Park did not preserve the samples from the crime, but the California lab involved in Piszczek's case had saved the samples for testing.
Ohio has the technological tools to help victims and put away dangerous criminals. It just has to find the will to use them.Read the full editorial here. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 11/03/08)
Does your state have an evidence preservation statute? Find out here.
Tags: New Jersey, Ohio
Friday Roundup: Seeking Freedom and Reform
Posted: March 5, 2010 5:45 pm
An editorial in the San Antonio Express News says that it took too long to clear Timothy Cole’s name and that there is need for further reforms in Texas. The Tim Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions is in the process of conducting a year-long review of the Texas justice system. Its recommendations will go to the Legislature for the 2011 session.
On Thursday, Troy Bradford of Ohio said he was innocent of a series of brutal burglaries that he was convicted of over a year ago. With no physical evidence against him, Bradford appealed the conviction, questioning the method by which the witness identification was obtained. He reached out to the Ohio Innocence Project, which asked prosecutors to test a fingerprint found at one of the scenes. The county prosecutor released the results of the fingerprint analysis Thursday. Two of the comparisons are not a match, and a third one has not yet been analyzed. Local prosecutors said they have no plans to reopen the case.
A Houston judge declared the death penalty unconstitutional yesterday and granted a motion filed in a capital case seeking to have the court find that Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 37.071 "violates the protections afforded to the Accused by the 8th and 14th Amendments . . . and that the option to sentence the Accused to die for a crime that he did not commit should be precluded as a sentencing option."
Wisconsin Innocence Project Co-Director Keith Findley is calling for a new jury in client Terry Vollbrecht’s murder trial. Vollbrecht has served 20 years of a life sentence for the murder of Angela Hackl in Sauk County over two decades ago. An investigator for the state Public Defender's office admitted to not following up on several leads in the original investigation which implicated other people in the crime.
Tags: Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, Timothy Cole
Ohio Legislators Urged to Pass Key Criminal Reform Bill
Posted: March 9, 2010 5:00 pm
With an important bill to improve the criminal justice system in Ohio already passed by the Senate six months ago, many people are wondering why isn’t it law yet. An editorial in today’s Columbus Dispatch says there isn’t a good reason -- and urges the House to pass it into law.
Senate Bill 77 would make it easier to use DNA evidence and exonerate the wrongly convicted. If passed into law, it would also prevent wrongful convictions by improving eyewitness identification procedures and interrogations. The Columbus Dispatch said these reforms are critical, and the Ohio House Speaker should call the bill for a vote.
By requiring DNA samples to be taken from anyone arrested for a felony, it would significantly expand the pool from which law-enforcement agencies can look for matches when DNA evidence from a crime is being analyzed.
It would make post-conviction DNA testing more available in cases where new technology or evidence warrants such testing. It would end a senseless prohibition on such testing for parolees, and would require DNA evidence to be saved for up to 30 years in the most serious cases, unless the defendant pleaded guilty; then evidence need be saved only five years. Just in Ohio, even with the roadblocks that currently exist, eight men have been found innocent of crimes for which they spent many years in prison. How many more innocent people might be exonerated if testing were made more available?
With a requirement that witness identifications be conducted by an officer who doesn't know who the suspect is - easily accomplished with a method in which subjects' photos are put in folders and shuffled - it would reduce the likelihood of faulty identifications, which former Attorney General Jim Petro, who also worked on the bill, has noted are at the root of 75 percent of wrongful-conviction cases.
Read the full editorial.
Although the bill enjoys strong bipartisan support, it has not been brought for a vote on the House floor. The Akron Beacon-Journal also called on the House Speaker to break this logjam and bring the bill for a vote. Ohio’s governor has said he will sign it if the House calls it for a vote and passes it.
The Innocence Project and the Ohio Innocence Project have worked to pass the legislation, and the groups are urging people who live in Ohio to contact their state representatives and urge them to bring Senate Bill 77 for a vote in the House. People in Ohio can find contact information for their representatives here.
Ohio Legislators Poised to Pass Key Criminal Justice Reforms
Posted: March 12, 2010 4:35 pm
House Speaker Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, told the Columbus Dispatch that he will call the bill for a vote.
"We've been working actively on this," said House Speaker Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, responding to questions about the delay in a vote. "It's a bill I believe is an important bill. We are now in a position to move it."
Budish said the GOP leaders did not tell him how many votes they would provide for the DNA bill until after this week's House calendar was set.
"The feeling we had been given was that they would be supportive, but you've got to have a head count," he said. "You can't put something on the floor and have it fail by a vote. That would be tragic."
Read the full story here.
The bill would require law-enforcement agencies to retain evidence in certain cases, make DNA testing available to parolees trying to prove their innocence and require blind administration of lineups, which can reduce misidentifications that lead to wrongful convictions. It also provides incentives for police departments to videotape interrogations, which can help prevent false confessions.
Tags: Ohio, Access to DNA Testing
Ohio Legislators Pass Major Reform Package
Posted: March 16, 2010 5:45 pm
By a vote of 85-7, the Ohio House of Representatives approved a bill that, if signed into law by Governor Ted Strickland, would offer unprecedented protections against wrongful convictions and improve prisoners’ ability to prove their innocence through DNA testing.
Governor Strickland has said he will sign the bill into law once it is reconciled with an earlier, Senate-approved version.
Bill sponsor Rep. Tyrone Yates, D-Cincinnati, said, “This is one of the most important pieces of criminal justice legislation in this state in a century.” Among the key reforms in the bill are:
- requiring the preservation of DNA evidence in serious crimes (such as homicide and sexual assault),
- police incentives for recording interrogations from beginning to end in serious crimes, and
- requiring police to practice double-blind lineups and eyewitness photo identification procedures.
The Ohio Innocence Project developed the legislation and has worked to pass it for the last two years with substantial assistance from the Innocence Project.
Read today’s press release here.
Ohio Enacts Historic Reforms
Posted: April 5, 2010 3:11 pm
Innocence Project Policy Advocate Rebecca Brown said the new law would set an example for other states:
“In the months and years ahead, policymakers around the country will look at what Ohio has done and understand how they, too, can create a more fair, accurate and reliable criminal justice system,” Brown said.
View today’s press release on the bill.
Read the full text of the bill.
Tags: Ohio, False Confessions, Eyewitness Identification, Evidence Preservation, Access to DNA Testing
Ohio Innocence Project's Request to Recuse Judge Denied
Posted: April 14, 2010 6:30 pm
Ohio Innocence Project Director Mark Godsey and former Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro asked to recuse Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge A.J. Wagner on the basis that he was hostile toward them and therefore unable to be impartial moving forward. According to the Dayton Daily News, Wagner claimed that Godsey was in violation of federal law by audio taping a conversation with a law enforcement officer.
Pfeifer pointed out that once Wagner learned that it wasn’t illegal, he dropped the matter.
Pfeifer also noted that the accusation took place in the summer of 2008 after Wagner denied Gillispie’s motion for a new trial. The Court of Appeals overturned Wagner’s decision in part in July 2009, but Godsey waited until March 2010 to request that Wagner be disqualified. Pfeifer said that delay undercut Godsey’s claim.
Godsey said he is disappointed with the decision but will move forward. A hearing on new evidence in the case is now scheduled for July 9, he said.
Read the full article here.
Learn about eyewitness identification reform here.
Governor Removes Ohio Man From Death Row, Reduces Sentence (Updated)
Posted: September 2, 2010 4:07 pm
The Innocence Network was among a diverse coalition of organizations and individuals who called on Strickland to grant clemency in the case. Last month, Innocence Network President Keith Findley wrote a letter to Strickland pointing to strong evidence of Keith’s innocence and over 10,000 people signed a petition urging the governor and parole board for a reprieve.
Keith was convicted of shooting and killing three people in an Ohio apartment in 1994. He was convicted based in part on questionable eyewitness identification evidence, and key details were never shared with defense attorneys.
Gov. Strickland’s decision helped save the life of a man who may very well be innocent.
Tags: Ohio, Death Penalty
New Tapes Reveal Police Chief Doubts Controversial Ohio Convictions
Posted: March 23, 2011 5:09 pm
Smith was upset by the new tapes:
"It's so hard to imagine why they [the police department] would do this to me," she said sobbing. "That they would do this when they knew all along I was innocent."
Bronish’s recordings were leaked by Joseph Montelon, a former Lorain police officer, but Bronish says that she did not give the tapes to either Montelon or her mother’s lawyers.
Read more in-depth reporting about the case from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer here.
Watch 19 Action News' original broadcast below:
Friday Roundup: Compensation, Real Perpetrators and the Death Penalty
Posted: January 20, 2012 1:00 pm
Tags: Ohio, Texas, Washington, New York, Exoneree Compensation, Forensic Oversight, Unvalidated/Improper Forensics, Life After Exoneration, Death Penalty, Real Perpetrator
Posted: February 2, 2012 3:00 pm
Tags: Arkansas, California, Ohio, Texas
Friday Roundup: False Confessions, Investigating Wrongful Convictions
Posted: February 3, 2012 4:30 pm
Tags: California, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Alan Crotzer
Posted: March 15, 2012 5:30 pm
Tags: District of Columbia, Ohio, Texas, Virginia
Science Thursday - July 26, 2012
Posted: July 26, 2012 7:40 pm
Lawyers and Judges consider the “CSI effect” in Ohio, a Texas analyst is being sued for misrepresenting the results of a drug test, and problems at a Minnesota lab cast doubt on thousands of cases. Here’s this week’s round up of forensic news:
Lawyers and judges in Ohio discuss whether there is a “CSI effect” altering jurors expectations
The Texas analyst handling most of the drug testing for the Dallas County family courts system faces a lawsuit from a father involved a custody dispute who alleges that the analyst misrepresented the results of a drug test.
Problems at the St. Paul Police Department Crime Laboratory have cast doubt on forensic results in thousands of cases.
Tags: Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Science Thursday
DNA Evidence Points Toward Ohio Man's Innocence
Posted: August 9, 2012 2:15 pm
Prade, 66, has always professed his innocence. On the day of his sentencing, he said in court, "I did not do this. I am an innocent, convicted person."
"The DNA results prove what Prade has said all along, that he is 100 percent innocent," said Carrie Woods, a staff lawyer for the University of Cincinnati Innocence Project who is also representing Prade. "We have asked the court that he be exonerated and released from jail, or at least give him a new trial. He should not spend another minute in prison."
Ohio Death Row Inmate Released
Posted: September 7, 2012 4:30 pm
An Ohio judge dismissed the case against Michael Keenan on Thursday, who was sentenced to death for the Cleveland murder of Tony Klann in 1988. His co-defendant, Joseph D’Ambrosio, had already been exonerated in 2010 after lawyers discovered that the prosecution had concealed evidence of his innocence. Evidence against the two centered on the testimony of an informant who himself received a reduced sentence in the crime for testifying against them. The Associated Press reports:
Judge John Russo said the evidence withheld by prosecutors "would have strengthened and been beneficial" to Keenan's case and that the harm done to him by the state's failure to disclose the evidence "cannot be resolved by a new trial," according to a transcript from Thursday's hearing.
Keenan was released on $5000 bond. He had spent over 21 years on death row.
Read the article.
Science Thursday - October 18, 2012
Posted: October 18, 2012 6:00 pm
Tags: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Ohio, Science Thursday
Science Thursday - November 15, 2012
Posted: November 15, 2012 9:00 pm
Tags: Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas
Innocence Project Fights Eye Blinking Evidence in Murder Trial
Posted: January 8, 2013 2:30 pm
Tags: Ohio, Eyewitness Misidentification
Ohio Supreme Court Considers DNA Testing in Death Row Case
Posted: January 10, 2013 10:40 am
Science Thursday - January 10, 2013
Posted: January 10, 2013 4:30 pm
Tags: Ohio, Texas, Science Thursday
Ohio Trial Court Tosses Conviction in False Confession Case
Posted: January 25, 2013 4:35 pm
Former Ohio Police Captain Cleared of Murder Based On DNA Evidence
Posted: January 29, 2013 6:00 pm
Columbus Post-Dispatch Profiles Ohio Exonerees
Posted: February 5, 2013 4:50 pm
Ohio Prosecutors Struggle to Accept Wrongful Convictions
Posted: February 5, 2013 5:00 pm
Innocence Network Week in Review: February 8, 2013
Posted: February 8, 2013 4:25 pm
Tags: California, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio
Science Thursday - March 7, 2013
Posted: March 7, 2013 11:50 am
Tags: District of Columbia, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, Science Thursday
Science News - March 15, 2013
Posted: March 15, 2013 4:35 pm
Tags: Kansas, Massachusetts, Montana, Ohio, Science Thursday
Science News - March 28, 2013
Posted: March 28, 2013 1:50 pm
Tags: California, Ohio, Texas, Science Thursday
Science News - April 4, 2013
Posted: April 4, 2013 3:25 pm
Tags: Massachusetts, Ohio, Virginia, New York, Science Thursday
Ohio Court Must Consider DNA Testing for Death Row Inmate
Posted: May 3, 2013 4:50 pm
Tags: Ohio, Access to DNA Testing, Death Penalty
Science News - May 23, 2013
Posted: May 23, 2013 3:10 pm
Tags: Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Science Thursday