After serving more than ten years of a life sentence in a maximum security prison for conspiring to commit murder, a Baltimore man found out suddenly yesterday that the case against him had been dropped.
Tyrone Jones’ conviction was overturned in January and he went to court Tuesday in anticipation of a new trial.
Instead, he was cleared.
During the summer of 1998, Jones was home from college when a 15-year-old local student and track star was shot to death. According to the Baltimore Sun, Jones was identfied as being among a group of people involved in the crime. He was arrested and police allegedly found gunshot residue on his hands. Ultimately a jury acquitted him of murder but found him guilty of conspiring to commit murder.
Michele Nethercott of the Maryland Innocence Project took on Jones’ case more than seven years ago when she noticed the flawed factors that lead to his conviction. Eyewitness misidentification played a role when a witness who initially told police he didn’t see any of the perpetrators later identified Jones in a photo array. Nethercott also cited faulty testimony of the forensic test that found gunshot residue on Jones’ hands. Explaining that other chemicals are often mistaken for it and that it can spread easily, she said finding it on his hands didn’t mean much. And, lastly, a police report with the original account of the witness was never shown to the defense or to the jury.
Over the past seven years, there were six hearings and three appeals to free Jones based on challenges to gunshot residue and to request post-conviction DNA evidence. In January, Judge Gale E. Rasin finally overturned the conviction based on the discovery of the police report. On Tuesday, the charges against him were tossed out.
“It took all but 10 seconds to undo something that’s been going on for 12 years,” Jones said, still shocked.
“I cannot stop smiling,” Jones said.
Jones, who already works as a maintenance man in an apartment complex plans to enroll in college in the fall and major in counseling. He credits the support of his family and Nethercott for getting him through the decade of legal battles and prison life and hopes to start a family.
Nethercott says she is “very hopeful for Tyrone.” He’s determined, he’s bright, and he’s got that solid family support, she said.