IPNO client Wilbert Jones' conviction vacated after 45.5 years. Emily Maw: "Nobody can undo this tragedy, but the court can and should end it right now and order [Wilbert Jones'] immediate release. The law permits it and morality compels it." pic.twitter.com/X3oWSt3rLW— IPNO (@InnocenceProjNO) November 8, 2017
Wilbert Jones was 19 years old when he was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and raping a nurse at gunpoint in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1971.
Three years later, he was convicted of aggravated rape at retrial and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Now, nearly 43 years after spending his life in prison, Jones is set to be released.
State District Court Judge Richard Anderson recently overturned Jones' conviction, stating the case against him is "weak, at best."
The judge also said authorities at the time withheld evidence that could have exonerated the man decades ago.
While Jones can walk out of the prison as a free man now, he must first pay $2,000 bail.
This essentially means Jones, now 65, who spent 43 years behind the bars for a crime he did not commit, now has to pay for it with money as well.
The state's case against Jones at the time rested solely upon the testimony of the nurse, who was only identified as A.H. In fact, records show the nurse was not even certain that Jones was her rapist when she identified him.
A.H., who died in 2008, picked Jones out of a police lineup more than three months after the assault. However, she also told the police that her assailant was taller and had a "much rougher" voice than Jones.
Prosecutors deny Judge Anderson's statement that authorities withheld important information that could have exonerated Jones decades ago.
"The state was not obligated to document for the defense every rape or abduction that occurred in Baton Rouge from 1971 to 1974," they wrote in February.
Emily Maw, an attorney with the Innocence Project, which took up Jones' case 15 years ago, choked up while speaking to reporters about the case.
“It takes a long time sometimes for courts to recognize a wrong,” she said.
And sometimes it takes courts a few months to not recognize a wrong.
Case in point: The 2015 Stanford rape case. After sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, Brock Turner, who was 19 years old when he committed the assault, spent a mere three months behind bars.
Thumbnail Credits: Spencer Weiner-Pool/Getty Images