FAIRFIELD, Ohio, April 8, 2011 – In a landmark case, a prisoner with a life sentence was freed after serving 18 years in a Florida prison, based on DNA findings presented by DNA Diagnostics Center – DDC. DNA analysis and testimony provided by Dr. Julie Heinig, DDC’s DNA Forensics Assistant Laboratory Director, is credited with leading to the exoneration of Derrick Williams earlier this week. DDC is the largest provider of private DNA paternity and other DNA testing in the United States and worldwide. The recent DNA tests were conducted for the Innocence Project of Florida.
DDC’s expert, Dr. Heinig, presented DNA test results in the evidentiary hearing of Williams, a Palmetto, Fla., man who was convicted of kidnapping and rape in 1993. Dr. Heinig, a post-conviction DNA expert with noted experience and success with degraded or otherwise difficult samples, isolated DNA from the shirt worn and abandoned by the true perpetrator 19 years ago. DNA results excluded Williams as a contributor to DNA found on the shirt.
Dr. Heinig testified, “Following our DNA tests, it made it highly likely that Williams did not wear the shirt.”
The court agreed with the Innocence Project of Florida’s contentions that newly discovered DNA evidence undermined confidence in the previous guilty verdicts that were largely based on challenged eyewitness identification.
“DDC provides DNA expertise to Innocence Projects across the country and, including this most recent ruling, has successfully assisted with four exonerations since 2008,” Peter Vitulli, president and CEO of DDC, said. “The Williams case represents DDC’s third collaborative effort in the last two years with the Innocence Project of Florida. Our world-class facility and testing methods allow the science to speak for itself, and the expert testimony we provide clearly explains what can be complicated issues. The freedom this has given to Mr. Williams proves the power of DNA testing and proves the process works.”
According to Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida, “In the Williams case, Dr. Heinig testified about the DNA results and clearly explained the science, giving Judge Marc Gilner the necessary clarity in a complicated scientific case. Without Dr. Heinig’s testimony, the evidentiary hearing would not have ended so well. Dr. Heinig and the DDC experts were able to compile results from a most difficult and degraded sample and then explain and defend the findings in a comprehensive and easy to understand manner for Judge Gilner. Without the DNA testimony provided by DDC, even the most compelling scientific evidence could have been lost on the court and justice would have suffered.”
“Working with Dr. Heinig and DDC has been an incredible collaboration for the Innocence Project of Florida,” Melissa Montle, lead attorney on the Williams case and staff attorney for the Innocence Project of Florida, said. “As we work more and more post-conviction cases, we are finding that the evidence available to us for testing has become complicated and challenging from a scientific standpoint. Dr. Heinig’s expertise and success with degraded or otherwise difficult samples has a proven track record we can rely on. Due to this expertise, we’re able to do a better legal job for our clients. Dr. Heinig doesn’t just deliver the findings, she defends them. We look forward to continuing to work with DDC and Dr. Heinig on future cases and can’t express enough how important their DNA testing has been in this case and our prior exonerations. It’s been invaluable.”
Coinciding with the Innocence Network Conference held in Cincinnati, Ohio, April 7-10, 2011, DDC has invited the international delegates and exonerees from around the United States attending the conference for a tour of its facility and a behind the scenes look at its forensics technology Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 3 p.m. at DDC, One DDC Way, Fairfield, Ohio.
For information about DDC Forensics visit www.forensicdnacenter.com.
As the largest provider of private DNA paternity and other DNA tests in the U.S. and worldwide for more than 15 years, DDC (DNA Diagnostics Center) offers comprehensive DNA testing services for paternity and other family relationships, forensics, ancestry and genetics. DDC’s subsidiary, Veterinary Diagnostics Center, provides innovative, quality DNA testing for companion and sport animals. DDC was the first to adopt robotics technology in its laboratory processes, ensuring highly stringent and efficient handling of DNA samples. DDC’s unique Dual ProcessTM, in which all DNA samples are independently tested twice, produces results of unmatched quality and reliability. DDC is recognized through a number of accreditations nationally and internationally achieving perfect ratings in its past 16 inspections including those performed by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) and the College of American Pathologists (CAP). DDC is also accredited by ACLASS to meet the standards of ISO 17025 and the DNA Advisory Board (DAB), which attests to DDC’s superior forensic testing service.