From the start, Dewey Jones has maintained his innocence. The Akron man has insisted that he did not murder Neal Rankin in 1993. Now court-ordered DNA tests bolster his argument. The tests reveal a partial male profile on a piece of rope used to tie the victim’s hands, on a knife used to cut the rope and a shirt sleeve of the victim. No part of the profile matches Jones.
The office of the state attorney general is handling the case, the matter passed along in March from the Summit County prosecutor. No doubt, Mike DeWine and his team will examine carefully the results. Hard to imagine that Jones won’t get what he deserves, a new trial at the least, or, better, his release from prison after 17 years.
At the time of his trial, Jones did not benefit from DNA testing. The tests weren’t sophisticated enough to assess the small biological samples. Now they are. In April 2010, then Judge Patricia Cosgrove ordered the DNA testing, noting in her decision that “depending on whether the results of the DNA evidence yield the existence of a different perpetrator at the scene … there is a strong probability that a reasonable fact-finder could find that the defendant was not the killer. …”
Recall that there was no physical evidence linking Jones to the crime scene. The case turned on the testimony of two witnesses and a jailhouse snitch. Unreliable eyewitness testimony rates as a leading cause of wrongful convictions. In this instance, the two who claimed they saw Jones near the Rankin house made the identification eight months to one year after the killing. They did so after identifying a different individual from a photo array they were shown immediately after the crime.
That leaves the snitch, released on probation around the time he had served with Jones, and now deceased. Judge Cosgrove captured his lack of credibility in her order: “Subsequent to Mr. [William Grant] Caton testifying in this case, he was shot and killed by a police after causing a fatal car crash … when fleeing from police.”
More, polygraph examiners twice, in 1995 and 2001, have concluded that Jones told the truth in answering questions about the Rankin murder.
Much credit goes to the Innocence Project and its attorney Carrie Wood for persisting in this pursuit of justice. In 2008, the Columbus Dispatch exposed weaknesses in the state’s evidence-retention and DNA testing systems (since improved by the legislature). The newspaper pointed to the Jones case as one of 30 deserving prompt attention.
A ghastly crime was committed, the pain long felt by the Rankin family. Dewey Jones has held to his innocence, and now DNA testing has found nothing to indicate he was there.