Jones, 74, has spent the last three decades behind bars for a 1981 double kidnapping and murder, and was ordered to be released Monday (March 24) afternoon.
The mother and former teacher’s aide was sentenced to life in prison after, an abusive ex-boyfriend Mose Willis, forced her at gunpoint to drive the car he used to abduct and kill two women in a Los Angeles alley. A week prior to the incident, Willis shot at and threatened to kill Jones’ daughter. “He pulled a gun on me and shot at me, and my mother witnessed that,” Jones’ daughter Denetra Jones-Goodie recalled in a police report. “He threatened not only to kill me, but to kill her and anybody else that came to our aid.”
Jones ran from the crime scene and hid at a friend’s house where she was later arrested by police.
Law students at the University of Southern California excavated the case, finding that Jones suffered from “intimate partner battering,” originally known as “battered women’s syndrome.” As such, the students concluded that Jones would not have been convicted of murder if jurors were able to hear more testimony. “Courts now allow experts to testify about the effects of being battered,” said Heidi Rummel of the USC Post-Conviction Justice Project. “Mr. 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.”
The Los Angeles District Attorney took a second look at the conviction, and commuted it to manslaughter. Jones pleaded no contest, and was given credit for time served. “I did not willingly participate in this crime, but I believe entering a no contest plea is in my best interest,” she told the judge in court today.
Before she met Willis, Jones was an active church member alongside working full time. She took the then homeless man in under the pretense that he was going to “live a clean life.”
Throughout her years behind bars Jones’ faith never wavered. “She knew this day was coming, even when we doubted it, she knew this day was coming,” Jones-Goodie told the press.
Jones’ son was convicted of a felony in 1979, and was barred from visiting her in prison. He hasn’t seen her since he was in his 20s. “Knowing that she’s gone, I’ve got something to live for now,” he said. “When she was gone it felt like…it [made] you just want to give up on life.”
She is expected to be released within the next 24 hours.
Photo: NBC LA