YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A man sentenced to over 90 years in prison for a 2011 fraternity party shooting that killed a man and wounded 10 others is asking for his DNA to be tested against shell casings collected at the crime scene.
Lawyers for Columbus Jones, 34, who was convicted by a jury in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for February 6, 2011, shooting death of Jamail Johnson, 25, said in their motion that if Jones’ DNA is not found on the casings but another person’s DNA is found, there is a strong chance their client did not kill Johnson.
Johnson was killed and 10 others wounded after gunfire broke out about 2:30 a.m. at the party, which was being held at an Indiana Avenue home. The street is on the other side of the Madison Avenue Expressway and across from the campus of Youngstown State University.
A jury before Judge John Durkin convicted Jones in August 2012 of murder and also for the wounding of 10 other partygoers. He was sentenced by Judge Durkin to 92 years to life in prison.
Strongsville-based attorneys Megan and Joseph Patituce asked Judge Durkin and state Attorney General Dave Yost Tuesday to allow a DNA sample to be taken from Jones and for DNA to be extracted from the casings police collected at the crime scene.
They want Jones’ DNA to be compared with the 10 .40-caliber shell shell casings police found at the crime scene.
According to their motion, police found casings from a .40-caliber handgun and an additional 11 casings from a .45-caliber handgun. The motion does not state which caliber of bullet killed Johnson or wounded the others.
Police never recovered a gun during their investigation.
Three other people received sentences ranging from prison to probation for their roles in the crime.
Testimony at the trial showed that gunfire broke out after a fight inside. Johnson was helping to shepherd partygoers to safety when he was killed.
Jones’s attorneys write in their motion that at the time their client went on trial, DNA testing on shell casings was not performed. Since then, they wrote, a method has been perfected by the state Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation to extract DNA from fired shell casings.
Additionally, prosecutors relied almost solely on eyewitness testimony during Jones’ trial, which can be unreliable, the motion said. Prosecutors also used the testimony of co-defendants who struck plea deals to testify against Jones, the motion said.
The motion claims that if Jones’ DNA can not be found on the casings but the DNA of a known felon is on the casings, “that would be strong evidence that the known felon was the true perpetrator,” the motion said.
The motion also said that the evidence should still be available. City police Lt. Mohammad Awad of the Detective Bureau said the department keeps evidence from all homicide cases no matter if the case was closed or not, and it will still be available if needed.
Jones appealed his convictions to the Seventh District Court of Appeals in 2021 but his appeal was denied.