Five years after the
published its award-winning series “Test of Convictions,” the paper caught up with five men who have been cleared through DNA testing since its publication. Through a collaboration with the Ohio Innocence Project, the series led to the DNA exonerations of four men: Robert McClendon, Raymond Towler, Joseph Fears and David Ayers. A fifth man, Douglas Prade, was freed just last week after DNA testing excluded him in the murder of his ex-wife. The District Attorneys’ Office plans to appeal.
“Test of Convictions” uncovered Ohio’s flawed evidence-retention system and the state’s resistance to post-conviction DNA testing. The series also highlighted the need for DNA testing in the cases of 30 inmates. Of the 30, five were cleared through DNA, four were implicated, seven were denied testing, ten got inconclusive results and the remaining cases are still ongoing.
Just after Prade’s release last week, the five exonerees met and shared their common experiences for the first time.
The first four freed Ohioans gathered at
to commemorate the project and meet Prade, who, coincidentally, was released on the fifth anniversary of the Dispatch series. While sharing plates of spaghetti and lasagna at a local restaurant, which Prade called the best meal he had eaten in 15 years, the men swapped stories about life on the inside and just how much the world had changed on the outside.