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Another Man Serving 20 Years Released – and a Possible Reform

I hate to sound like a broken record, but these cases keep on coming.  Dewey Jones was convicted 20 years ago of murder.  But:

Defense attorneys have said there was never any physical evidence linking Jones to the slaying of 71-year-old Neal Rankin in 1993. The state’s star witness — a jailhouse snitch and career felon who claimed Jones confessed to him — died in a shootout with police.

After Thursday’s hearing, two rows of Jones’ supporters wiped tears and loudly applauded the ending.

“This is the kind of case that you dream about when you’re a law student: Freeing an innocent man,” VanHo said. “This is it. And we actually got to do it.”

Jones has always maintained his innocence, but few believed him until the Ohio Innocence Project took up his case and persuaded a judge to allow DNA testing on crime-scene evidence that police had collected but not examined with modern techniques.

The new DNA tests of crime-scene evidence found unknown samples 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 fabric from the victim’s shirtsleeves.

In this case, the government was still resistant to allowing Jones to be permanently freed.

Institutional reforms that address these issues are difficult. For example, see this discussion between Will Baude and Ilya Somin.

The government – prosecutors and police – often resist these cases based on individual incentives and the reputation of the government. For that reason, I wonder whether there ought to be a special department established – loosely on the model of Internal Affairs divisions – that should consider these cases. They should have as their mission the fair treatment of the convicted and should not be answerable to the ordinary prosecutors and police officials.

Certainly, the same prosecutor who was involved in the case should never be involved in reviewing their own conduct.

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