Late Monday night, Mary Virginia Jones walked free for the first time in 32 years. At the age of 74, Jones was freed from prison, where she has lived almost half her life for a murder she didn’t commit.
Jones was indicted in 1981 for her role in the murder of a drug dealer whom her boyfriend forced her to help rob at gunpoint, according to the Los Angeles Times. She maintains that she didn't want any part of the crime and was forced to participate at gunpoint.
“She ran down the alley fully expecting him to shoot and kill her, too,” said Heidi Rummel, co-director of the University of Southern California’s Post-Conviction Justice Project and the supervising defense attorney on the case.
Rummel also argued that Jones would have escaped conviction had the jury heard the evidence of an abuser’s effect on a partner, known previously as “Battered Women’s Syndrome.”
“I did not willingly participate in this crime, but I believe that entering a no contest plea is in my best interest to get out of custody,” Jones explained, reading from a statement in court.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s went back to Jones’ case after USC law students, overseen by Rummel, began to work on it. Conducting their own investigation, the D.A. decided to dismiss Jones’ previous convictions. She will serve no more time nor be on probation, though she will have to plead no contest to involuntary manslaughter.
Deputy District Attorney Hyman Sisman would only comment that "justice was done."
The murderer, Mose Willis, had shot at Jones’ daughter, Denitra Jones-Goodie, the week before, forcing Jones to help rob two drug dealers at gunpoint.
“He pulled a gun on me and shot at me, and my mother witnessed that,” said Jones-Goodie. “And he threatened to not only kill me but to kill her and anybody else that came to our aid.”
Willis died while on death row.
“She never should have been incarcerated in the first place, but she’s free, thank God,” said Jones-Goodie of her mother’s release. “She was expecting and hoping to be led out of the courtroom.”