A 74-year-old woman was freed from jail early Tuesday after a judge overturned her murder conviction on Monday. Mary Virginia Jones had been in prison for 32 years for a murder that her abusive boyfriend, Mose Willis, made her assist with at gunpoint.
The effects of abuse were not fully understood back in 1981, and therefore experts on the subject weren’t regularly testifying in court.
“Courts now allow experts to testify about the effects of being battered,” Heidi Rummel, who is the co-director of USC’s Post-Conviction Justice Project, said about the case. “Willis forced Jones at gunpoint to participate in the robbery and kidnapping — she ran down the alley fully expecting him to shoot and kill her, too.”
This wasn’t an isolated incident for Willis, who also terrorized Jones’ children. Denetra Jones-Goodie told the court that Willis “threatened not only to kill me, but to kill her and anybody else that came to our aid. He pulled a gun on me and shot at me, and my mother witnessed that.”
Mary Virginia Jones’ saviors were a group of students from USC’s law school who convinced the district attorney to reopen her case in order to re-examine the evidence and introduce experts on abuse in the new trial. This new evidence led the judge to exchange Jones’ first-degree murder conviction without possibility of parole for a no contest plea to voluntary manslaughter with a time-served sentence, according to Yahoo.
Cries of joy and relief filled the court room from Jones’ family, who have been waiting 32 long years for justice. Her son hasn’t seen her at all in the last 32 years, as he has a criminal record and wasn’t allowed into the jail where she was being held.
“Words cannot express my gratitude to God and to my fellow man,” Jones said as she walked free on Tuesday.
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