Mary Virginia Jones, a 74-year-old Los Angeles woman who has been incarcerated for 32 years in connection with a 1981 murder, was scheduled to be released from prison on March 25, according to a news article at CBS Los Angeles. A judge ruled on Monday that she would be released for a murder which was committed by her abusive boyfriend, Mose Willis, who died while on death row.
Jones was convicted in 1981 on charges of kidnapping, robbery, and first-degree murder in a shooting death related to dealing drugs, according to the report. Law students at USC’s Post-Conviction Justice Project worked to free Jones, who they say would not have been found guilty had the jury been allowed to hear testimony on the effects of battered women’s syndrome, now known as “intimate partner battery.” The project claims that Mose Willis, Jones’ boyfriend at the time, forced her to drive to an alley after he kidnapped two drug dealers; he then shot both, and one of the men died. Supervising defense attorney Heidi Rummel, who is co-director of the USC justice project, said that Jones ran after Willis shot at the men, expecting that Willis would shoot her and possibly kill her, too.
One week before Willis shot at the two drug dealers, he allegedly shot at Jones’ daughter and threatened that if police were contacted, he would kill them both. Jones said before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan on Monday that she believed entering a no contest plea to voluntary manslaughter was in her best interest in regards to getting out of custody, but that she did not participate in the crime willingly. Judge Ryan gave her credit for time served, setting aside her convictions and ordering that she be set free.
The DA’s office agreed to Jones’ release in exchange for her plea of no contest to voluntary manslaughter; she had already served far beyond the 11 year maximum sentence for that offense.
Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys understand that there are often circumstances which lead to someone being charged with a serious or violent crime such as murder, when perhaps they are innocent or another charge would have been more suitable considering the facts. Unfortunately, it appears that Mary Virginia Jones spent a substantial portion of her life behind bars mostly due to the fact that she had bad judgment in her choice of boyfriends, and perhaps feared for her life.
Anyone who is accused of murder, manslaughter, or any violent crime which may result in years or even life in prison should consult with a skilled and aggressive Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer immediately. Even in the case of the most violent offenses, there are legal options and sound defense strategies which may work to help prevent a conviction or extremely harsh criminal penalties.