Ed Meyer

Extensive court filings seeking a new trial for Dewey Jones in his 1993 Summit County murder case claim DNA test results of crime-scene evidence are not the only potential signs of a wrongful conviction.

The 84-page motion filed in the case by the Ohio Innocence Project also says statements from a new defense witness will exonerate Jones and implicate another suspect who was under suspicion early by Akron police.

Dewey Amos Jones III, now 50, was convicted in a March 1995 jury trial of the murder and robbery of Neal Rankin, a Goodyear retiree from Akron, on Valentine’s Day 1993.

He was bound with rope and shot to death at his Independence Avenue home in the Chapel Hill area of the city.

Daughter’s reaction

Brittany Jones, who was 7 years old when her father was sent away for the crime, said she was ecstatic Tuesday night after reading the full text of the Innocence Project records.

“The next best thing to the news about the DNA tests,” she said, “is going to be him walking out of prison.

“If his trial had happened today, the case would have been thrown out of court.”

Results of the DNA tests, which were conducted by the Cincinnati branch of the DNA Diagnostics Center in nearby Fairfield, were announced in a Columbus Dispatch story Tuesday.

The tests found an unknown DNA 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 sleeves.

Carrie Wood, the Innocence Project lawyer who is in charge of the defense case, said none of that crime-scene evidence matches the DNA profiles of Dewey Jones or Rankin.

Long process

Wood, however, acknowledged that “there is still a long process to go” if her requests for a new trial or vacated conviction are granted.

A decision probably will be made early this summer by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands.

Rowlands is not permitted to discuss specifics of the case, but in a meeting in her chambers Wednesday morning, she outlined the size of the legal task she faces in making a decision. The preliminary Innocence Project case file is at least 3 inches thick.

A tentative court schedule calls for the prosecution to file a response to the defense records by May 24, followed by reply briefs from the Innocence Project by June 7 and, finally, a decision from Rowlands by July 9.

Wood said she talked to Jones about the DNA findings in a phone interview from Richland Correctional Institution this week.

“His reaction is that he’s known all along that they wouldn’t find his DNA and that he’s happy we’re finally moving forward in requesting the judge overturn his conviction,” Wood said.

Nationwide attention

Wood is a Cornell University graduate and a former public defender for the Legal Aid Society in New York City.

She was one of the Innocence Project lawyers involved in the overturned rape conviction of Raymond Towler of Cleveland.

The Cuyahoga County case received nationwide attention in May 2010, when Towler was freed from prison after serving 29 years for the rape of an 11-year-old Lakewood girl.

Tests of preserved DNA evidence from the girl’s clothes showed Towler was not the contributor.

Earlier suspect

In this week’s filing in the Dewey Jones case, Wood said that statements by a new defense witness will “implicate Gary Rusu” in the Rankin slaying.

Months before the arrest of Dewey Jones, Akron police arrested Rusu and two additional suspects, including Jones’ wife, Lori G. Jones, for the murder.

However, prosecutors dismissed charges against all three in late 1994, within days of their trials, for lack of evidence.

Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at emeyer@thebeaconjournal.com.