More than 23 years ago, Robert Jones was convicted of robbing, kidnapping and raping a woman in 1992 in Orleans Parish and then soon after pleaded guilty to a pair of other crimes, one of which included killing a tourist in New Orleans’ French Quarter in 1996. Yesterday, on his 44th birthday, Jones was exonerated of those crimes. The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office announced that it would not retry him for the 1992 crimes and vacated the other charges to which he’d falsely pleaded guilty.
The Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO) started working on Jones’ case seven years ago. Over the course of those years, attorneys there uncovered evidence which pointed to grave injustice in how then-prosecutors handled Jones’ case, including loss of exculpatory DNA evidence and “steering of a witness” in the 1992 case, writes the Advocate. IPNO also learned that there was absolutely no evidence linking Jones to the other cases to which he’d been advised by his attorney to plead guilty.
In 2015, based on that evidence, Jones was released on bond. He’s been out on bail since that time, but it was unclear as to how long he would remain free given that the Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro had pledged to re-try Jones for the 1992 case.
The Innocence Project, which assisted on the case, was in preparation with IPNO for a hearing scheduled to start earlier this week at which they were going to highlight the misconduct under former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick. But on Thursday, Assistant District Attorney David Pipes said that the case would not be retried.
After exoneration, Robert Jones stands with his legal team including Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck, Innocence Project New Orleans Executive Director Emily Maw, Kirschelle McGowan, Richard Davis, and Innocence Project Senior Attorney Nina Morrison on Jan. 26, 2016. Photo: Innocence Project New Orleans.
“Today is not only my birthday, but today is a day of justice,” Jones told the judge, according to the Advocate. “This is what I stood on for many years. I have stood on my innocence. I’ve stood on my truth, my confidence and justice.”
Outside the courthouse, Jones said about the case that took more than 23 years of his freedom: “It’s a burden I’ve been carrying for many, many years. The burden is free. I’m light. I can fly.”
Jones has a wish list on Amazon to which people can purchase day-to-day items for him and his home.