Overjoyed family members greeted 74-year-old Mary Virginia Jones when she stepped out of the Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, California at 11 pm, Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported. The last time she was out as a free woman was when Ronald Reagan had just taken oath as the President of the United States. The innocent grandma had spent 32 years of her life in prison for a murder she didn't commit.
Virginia had been serving a life sentence at the Lynwood facility for her alleged role in a murder committed by her boyfriend Mose Willis back in 1981. Mose, who was sentenced to death died while on death row. Virginia on the other hand was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
It was cries of 'Thank you Jesus!' and 'Hallelujah' that greeted people assembled at the Los Angeles courtroom where Judge William C. Ryan finally pronounced Virginia to be freed, the Daily Times reports. The family that included Virginia's daughter Denitra Jones-Goodie, couldn't control their emotions and sobbed. Denitra later told reporters she had lost all hopes of seeing Mary as a free woman who had been in the past subjected through four separate trials, one reversal of appeal and two hung juries. "She never should have been incarcerated in the first place, but she's free, thank God," Jones-Goodie said.
Earlier, the Los Angeles District Attorney's office reviewed the case and agreed to set aside her convictions if she pled no contest to voluntary manslaughter. Virginia, using a magnifying glass to read her plea in the courtroom said, "I did not willingly participate in this crime, but I believe entering a no contest plea is in my best interest."
The crime leading to Virginia's arrest and the subsequent sentencing happened back in 1981 when Jones' abusive boyfriend kidnapped two drug dealers and forced Jones to drive to an alley. He killed one of the dealers there while Virginia, who feared for her own life escaped from there – only to be arrested days later for the "crime" she had committed. All through her trial, Virginia maintained that Willis had forced her to do things at gunpoint. None of the subsequent trials took into account the fact that she has a history as a battered victim - directing attorney, Heidi Rummel, of the told reporters. It also took four excruciatingly long trials for the jury to reach her conviction.
If Mary has anybody to be thankful to, it has to be the students from UCLA's Post-Conviction Justice Project who challenged Virginia's conviction. Their argument in favor of Mary was the fact that the jury that convicted her never heard testimony on the effects of what was then known as Battered Women's Syndrome. Had they done so, Virginia would have never been convicted. UCLA Student Laura Donaldson told reporters, "the procedural history of Mary's case gave me a greater appreciation for the pitfalls of the justice system."
Do you think Mary Virginia Jones was wronged by the justice system of the United States who had in the past also had the case of Glenn Ford, a death row inmate who was exonerated after spending 30 years in prison?
[Images Via CBS news, KTLA, NYDailyNews]