A man who served more than 45 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit has been freed.
"God is so good," said 65-year-old Wilbert Jones, who was imprisoned at 19 years old. The Los Angeles Times reports that Jones left East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Wednesday after being exonerated for a rape conviction.
"Freedom. After more than 45 years and 10 months. That's going through my mind," Jones said as he hugged his brother outside the prison. He said that "serving time" was difficult and thanked the legal team at the Innocence Project New Orleans — who work to overturn convictions of those they believe were falsely convicted — saying, "without them, this wouldn't be possible."
On October 2, 1971, Jones was arrested on suspicion of abducting a nurse at gunpoint from a Baton Rouge hospital parking lot and raping her behind a building. He was convicted of aggravated rape at a 1974 retrial. Per his judge, the conviction "rested entirely" on the nurse's testimony and her "questionable identification" of Jones as her attacker.
The nurse picked Jones out of a police lineup more than three months after the rape, but the description she gave of her attacker in both height and voice did not match Jones. The nurse died in 2008.
Jones' lawyers argue that the nurse's description matches another man who was arrested but never charged in the rape of a woman abducted from the parking lot of another area hospital 27 days after the first attack. The same man was arrested on suspicion of raping another woman in 1973. He was charged and convicted of armed robbery in that case.
It was argued that authorities knew of the similarities between that suspect and the nurse's description of her attacker.
"Nevertheless, the state failed to provide this information to the defense," the judge said.
“Some gumbo and some good potato salad and some good dessert,” he said. "Enjoy my little life I have left and speak to young kids and tell them to go the right way and not this way. This ain’t where it's at."
[Photo: Getty Images]
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