Prisoner Granted Chance to Prove D.A. Misconduct
A man who has spent the last 19 years in prison for a murder he has consistently denied committing has been afforded a chance at exoneration under Criminal Procedure Law §440.30 after his pro bono attorneys persuaded a judge to order an evidentiary hearing.
Under a recent ruling by Acting Supreme Court Justice Joseph Zayas (See Profile) in Queens in People v. Jones, 4811/1994, Robert Jones will have an opportunity to develop his claims of prosecutorial misconduct and present evidence that the only witnesses against him have recanted their testimony.
Jones was convicted of second degree murder in the 1994 shooting death of his childhood friend, Antoine Stone. Records show that Stone was shot while preaching to a drug dealer at an intersection in Far Rockaway. The perpetrator fled on a bicycle.
Jones, who said he was in his Manhattan apartment at the time of the shooting, was convicted by a jury based on the testimony of eyewitnesses.
However, the witnesses recently submitted affidavits disavowing their identification of the defendant and alleging they were pressured by a detective and assistant district attorney to implicate Jones.
Zayas declined to vacate the conviction, but did order a hearing to review the case.
Jones was represented pro bono by Thomas Hoffman, a solo practitioner in Manhattan who agreed in October, to investigate the matter, and Christopher Joralemon, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Appearing for the prosecution were assistant Queens district attorneys Ushir Pandit and Robert Masters.