Wednesday, 29 July 2009

After Two Decades, On the Verge of Freedom

Lebrew Jones, who has served more than two decades in prison for a New York City murder he has always said he didn’t commit, learned last week that he’ll be released on parole in November. His parole follows mounting evidence of his innocence and comes as his legal team — including attorneys at the Innocence Project — seeks DNA testing in the case.

Jones (above, photo by Tom Bushey, Times Herald-Record) had no criminal record before he was convicted in 1989 of killing a 21-year-old woman in Manhattan. He has maintained his innocence for two decades and his case was the subject of an award-winning investigative series by the Times Herald-Record newspaper. Included in his parole application was a letter from Lois Hall, the mother of the murder victim, saying she believes he is innocent and should be paroled while his quest to clear his name continues.

"Oh my God, I'm so happy," Hall told a reporter upon hearing he will be released. "The only sad part about this is he had to do 22 years for something he never did."

Although biological evidence that could potentially prove Jones’ innocence was collected from the crime scene, it has been reported as lost or destroyed. The Innocence Project is consulting on DNA issues in Jones’ case with his lead attorneys at the law firm of Davis, Polk and Wardwell.

Jones’ case is not the only one affected by lost evidence in New York City, where the Innocence Project continues calling for improvements in evidence preservation and storage practices. Approximately half of all New York City cases closed by the Innocence Project in recent years were closed because of lost or destroyed evidence. In 2006, evidence in Alan Newton’s case was located after being falsely reported destroyed for eight years. The tests exonerated Newton and he was freed after 22 years in prison.

Read more about Jones’ case and explore the Times Herald-Record’s multimedia feature on the case, including video interviews with Jones in New York’s Otisville State Prison.

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