He Wrongfully Spent 45 Years in Prison in 'Weak at Best' Case

Now 65-year-old Wilbert Jones is free after his rape conviction was overturned
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 16, 2017 8:44 AM CST
Wrongfully Jailed Man Freed, 45 Years Later: 'God Is So Good'
Wilbert Jones, center, hugs an attorney for Innocence Project New Orleans as he leaves East Baton Rouge Parish Prison with his niece, right, in Baton Rouge, La., on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A 65-year-old Louisiana man arrested at 19 and sentenced to life without parole walked out of prison Wednesday, saying "God is so good" after his rape conviction was overturned. Authorities withheld evidence that could have exonerated Wilbert Jones decades ago, and their case against him was "weak at best," State District Judge Richard Anderson said, per the AP. "Freedom. After more than 45 years and 10 months," Jones said as he hugged relatives outside the gates of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. He also thanked his legal team at the Innocence Project New Orleans. Jones was arrested on suspicion of abducting a nurse at gunpoint from a Baton Rouge hospital parking lot and raping her behind a building in October 1971. He was convicted of aggravated rape at a 1974 retrial that "rested entirely" on the nurse's testimony and her "questionable identification" of Jones as her assailant.

Jones' lawyers claim the nurse's description matches a man arrested but never charged in the rapes of two other women, one just 27 days after the nurse's attack. Anderson said the evidence shows cops knew of similarities between that man and the nurse's description of her attacker but failed to give that information to the defense. Jones' attorneys also said a prosecutor who secured his conviction had a track record of withholding evidence favorable to defendants. The husband of the nurse, who died in 2008, "feels that Mr. Jones ... should be able to get out and spend his remaining years with his family," his lawyers wrote. Prosecutors say they don't intend to retry Jones, but they'll ask the state Supreme Court to review the decision. Jones told reporters he holds no resentment. "I forgave. I forgive," he said. "I didn't have control of it. Why should I worry about it? I'm in charge of myself."

(More wrongful conviction stories.)

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