Forensic DNA Testing by DDC Helps Vacate Conviction

Jul 21, 2017 | Innocence Project

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DDC, one of the world’s largest private DNA laboratories, features a trusted, highly-regarded forensic DNA testing team. Our fully-accredited forensic laboratory provides unbiased independent forensic DNA testing and consultation services to legal and law-enforcement professionals. One of the high-profile cases DDC Forensics was involved in was recently in the news: here are the details.

DNA Analysis Conducted by DDC Assists in Death Penalty Case Reversal

The Supreme Court of Florida reversed the two-count murder conviction and death penalty sentence of Ralph Daniel Wright, Jr. of Tampa, FL for the 2007 murder of his ex-girlfriend Paula O’Connor and their son Alijah. DNA analysis conducted by DNA Diagnostics Center of a single black glove that was found at the crime scene (the same kind that had been issued to Wright’s military unit) and other crime-scene evidence showed no definitive match for Wright. This DNA testing supported the court’s decision that evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt, and no other physical evidence linked Wright to the crime scene.

The court unanimously vacated Wright’s conviction for the murders ruling that the evidence against him was “purely circumstantial.” Much of the state’s case relied on the presence of the black military glove at O’Connor’s home, but the State could not prove the Wright ever wore the glove, that he left it at the victim’s home, that it came from McDill (the base where he was stationed), or that it was even used in the murders. DNA tests by Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported the results as inconclusive, but independent analysis by DNA Diagnostics Center and Bode, the private labs hired by defense and prosecution respectively, excluded Wright as a contributor to the DNA on the glove.

Wright’s defense team included the St. Petersburg Law Firm of Kidder & Bennett

Attorney Nat Kidder expressed, “It is always gratifying to work with people who are consummate professionals.  In a case where three labs had analyzed the DNA in this complex case, DDC and Dr. Julie Heinig provided the definitive evidence that Mr. Wright was ‘excluded’ as the contributor to the DNA found in the glove.”
Working closely with Nat Kidder and William Bennett, DDC’s Laboratory Director, Julie A. Heinig, Ph.D. stated, ”DNA testing proves over and over that it is a powerful tool to help uncover the truth. Mr. Wright’s acquittal is the ninth such case DDC worked that ultimately proved an inmate’s innocence, and its value is especially evident in death-penalty cases like this where it helps a wrongfully-convicted man be set free.”
Mr. Wright was scheduled to be released on July 18, 2017, following the mandate from the Florida Supreme Court.

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