PHOENIX – A man who was wrongly convicted of a murder charge 29 years ago was released from prison Thursday in Phoenix, Arizona.
In a news release from the Pima County Attorney’s Office, Barry Jones was convicted of the first-degree murder of a 4-year-old child in 1994. After his case was reexamined, the attorney’s office said that evidence does not support that Jones caused the injuries that led to the girl’s death.
Rachel Gray was Jones’ girlfriend’s daughter, according to The Associated Press.
Jones drove the girl and her mother to a hospital in Tucson where the girl was pronounced dead, according to the AP. It was learned that the girl’s death was caused by a cut to her small bowel. Investigators alleged that Jones had beaten the girl and sexually assaulted her.
A federal district court judge ruled that Jones’ convictions should be overturned in 2018, according to KTVK. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed except the U.S. Supreme Court said that federal courts were unable to review the case. That ruling kept Jones on death row but allowed Arizona to look at the evidence in his case.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office then asked the Pima County Superior Court to vacate his convictions as well as his death sentence, the news outlet reported.
The AG’s agreed to throw out Jones’ first-degree murder conviction but the evidence supported a second-degree murder conviction because he was caring for the girl and “allowed her to die as a result of her injuries,” according to the AP.
The AG’s Office and the Pima County Attorney’s Office said they agree that Jones’ first-degree murder conviction should be vacated, according to the Pima County Attorney’s Office. He will no longer face the death penalty and be resentenced to second-degree murder, which has a maximum of 25 years. Jones served 29 years and will receive credit for time served and will be released from prison.
“These are some of the most difficult decisions we face as prosecutors, trying to balance the rule of the law and in this case holding someone accountable for the death of an innocent 4-year-old child. What’s also important is having the courage to re-evaluate these cases thoroughly, while staying true to our responsibility of charging them accordingly with what is right in the eyes of the law. To that end Mr. Jones has been held more than accountable,” Laura Conover of the Pima County Attorney’s Office said in the news release.
With Jones’ death sentence being vacated, Arizona has 110 people on its death row, the AP reported.
Angela Gray, the girl’s mother, was convicted of child abuse for failure to obtain medical care for her daughter and served over eight years in prison, KTVK reported.