Witness Claims She Was Forced to Implicate New York Man of Murder


Robert Jones was convicted of the shooting death of a street preacher in Queens, New York, two decades ago, but he is hopeful that Monday’s recantation from the star witness, who said she was forced to identify him, will help prove his innocence. He is serving 25 years to life.



New York Times

reported that Joan Purser-Gennace took the stand in a Kew Gardens court room yesterday and said police detectives coerced her to identify Jones even though she couldn’t, going as far to visit her home nearly 10 times to coach her with pictures and instruct her who to pick out of a lineup. According to the article, several of Mr. Jones’s family members in the court room burst into tears as Purser-Gennace testified, “Everything, it was provided to me from the police — the lies. . . . They said, ‘This is how I want you to say it,’ and it was a lie.”


The police and prosecutors responsible for Jones’ conviction came into question after Jones’ legal team filed a motion to vacate the verdict based on ineffective counsel, the recantation of two witnesses and the possibility that exculpatory information was not given to defense lawyers. A second witness who testified to seeing a man flee the scene on a bike matching Jones’ bike is expected to recant that testimony in the coming days.


The victim was killed on September 10, 1994, and Purser-Gennance testified at trial that she witnessed the incident from her second-story window, but she now insists that she could not identify the gunman. At yesterday’s hearing, she said detectives made threatening comments about her husband and children and hinted that her immigration status could be jeopardized. She even said that an assistant district attorney became enraged when she said that she couldn’t identify Jones.


Despite the prosecution’s requests that any hearing be limited to the credibility of the witnesses’ recanted statements, Justice Joseph A. Zayas allowed all claims, including possible misconduct by law enforcement officials, to be reviewed.


After the hearing, Justice Zayas will decide whether to vacate Jones’ conviction or order a new trial.


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