On Monday, March 24, CBS Los Angeles reported that a 74-year-old woman would be released from prison after serving 32 years for a crime she didn’t commit.
In 1981, Mary Virginia Jones was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery after a shooting. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan set aside these convictions in exchange for a plea of no contest to voluntary manslaughter, giving her credit for time served and ordering for her release.
Late that Tuesday night, Jones was released.
A big player in the reversal of Jones’ conviction was the USC Post-Conviction Justice Project, a group of two USC law professors and several student legal interns that represents convicted individuals who are eligible for parole while serving life sentences for murder in California state prisons. Jones had initially been ineligible for parole until the Post Conviction Justice Project intervened, according to Los Angeles news station KTLA.
According to CBS Los Angeles, the Post-Conviction Justice Project claimed that Jones’ abusive boyfriend, Mose Willis, kidnapped two drug dealers, and then forced Jones to drive to an alley, where he shot both men, killing one. Willis was given the death sentence in 1981 and later died on death row.
“Mr. Willis forced Jones at gunpoint to participate in the robbery and kidnapping — she ran down the alley fully expecting him to shoot and kill her, too,” Heidi Rummel, co-director of the Post-Conviction Justice Project, said.
The law students of the Post-Conviction Justice Project also argued that Jones’ conviction would never have happened if if the jury had heard testimony on the effects of intimate partner battery, formerly called “Battered Women’s Syndrome.”
The Post-Conviction Justice Project’s role in Jones’ release is undeniable.