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Backers raise funds for man freed from death row

PHOENIX (Crokite) — For Barry Jones, the payoff for 28 years on death row in Arizona until his release in June could be about $10 a day.

if he is lucky Individual donors have to cough that much first.

The GoFundMe campaign, launched by former criminal investigator Andrew Sowers, a member of Jones’ legal team, had raised $44,635 as of Wednesday, with a target of $106,360, meaning Jones would be in Arizona. Collected $10 for every 10,636 days “wrongfully imprisoned.” prison.

“I don’t think we’ll ever reach this goal, but I think it puts everything in some perspective,” Sowers said in a GoFundMe update. “This seems like a number that could mean something.”

Jones was released from prison on June 15 after spending 29 years on death row for crimes that the state now denies committing: May 2, 1994, having sex with a 4-year-old Physical Assault and Murder Rachel Gray, the daughter of a girlfriend who lives in Tucson.

As part of a deal with the state, Jones pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for failing to seek prompt medical attention when Rachel became ill. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the crime and later released after serving his sentence.

“Mr. Jones has more than enough responsibility,” said Laura Conover, the Pima County Attorney who originally indicted Mr. Jones.

Mr Conover said in a recent interview that Mr Jones was getting the most severe punishment possible and that if no evidence of his innocence was presented, “he would have been executed”.

Jones always maintained his innocence in Rachel’s death. An autopsy determined the cause of death to be homicide due to blunt force trauma to the abdomen. Prosecutors have suggested the incident occurred when Jones took the girl on several short trips around town in a van.

After Rachel became unresponsive on the morning of May 2, Jones and the girl’s mother, Angela Gray, took her to hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. Gray did not seek immediate medical attention from Rachel, and she was found guilty of reckless child abuse. She was released in her 2003.

Jones was convicted of all charges and sentenced to death in April 1995. He continued to appeal over the next few years, including one that reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2022.

In this case, Jones and another convicted Arizona death row inmate should have been allowed to present new evidence, both at trial and on appeal, that they had hired incompetent attorneys. claimed. They argued that poor defense representation led to the conviction.

But the court dismissed the appeal, and Judge Clarence Thomas, in a 6-3 majority, said granting such an appeal would open the door to a “mass action” of state cases in federal court. I wrote that it would happen. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the decision was “perverted” and “illogical,” and that it leaves defendants like Jones “with neither recourse nor opportunity for redress” in capital punishment cases. will be gone,” he said.

Monica Haymond, a lecturer and fellow at Harvard Law School, was one of the attorneys who represented Jones as the case went to the Supreme Court. She said of Thomas’ sentence in court, “It didn’t matter that Barry was innocent.”

But by the time Jones’ case is back in federal district court, Arizona has a new attorney general named Chris Mays, and prosecutors are willing to listen to new evidence presented by his lawyers. rice field. Haymond said last year’s Mays election “played an important role in achieving justice.”

In court papers filed in May, defense attorneys subdivided the state’s case against Jones. They say police narrowed him down as a suspect within hours of Rachel’s death and likely eliminated the others. Witnesses told police that Rachel may have been beaten by other family members and neighborhood boys, one of whom reportedly hit her in the abdomen with a metal rod. It was the exact type of injury that prosecutors have attributed to Rachel’s murder.

Ms Jones’ conviction was supported by testimony that Rachel’s injuries occurred the day before her death when she spent part of the day under Mr Jones’ care, but other doctors have since documented the injuries. said it may have happened a few days ago.

Prosecutors also said Jones’ trial attorney did not pursue conflicting testimony from Rachel’s sister. She told police that Jones and Rachel went on two trips in a van on May 1, and that Rachel was happy and unharmed after the two trips, and also testified at her mother’s trial. But at Ms Jones’ trial, she said there were three trips in her van and she didn’t see Rachel after the third time.

In May, the state agreed to drop all charges against Jones in exchange for a guilty plea in Rachel’s second-degree murder case, acknowledging that Jones had demonstrated the incompetence of trial attorneys.

“What happened to Rachel was a terrible tragedy and he (Jones) went to jail for his role in it,” Haymond said. “But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get the chance to bounce back as a member of society and reunite with his family.”

Haymond donated $750 to Jones’ GoFundMe account, one of 626 people who have donated so far. She said that was partly because Arizona doesn’t have a compensation program for wrongfully convicted individuals, so it’s important for communities to work together to “close the gap.” Told.

“I would have liked to have done more to make up for the injustice the country has caused,” Haymond said. “It’s especially easy to want to help Barry.”

Sowers launched a campaign to help Jones “adjust and get back on track” on June 15, the day he was released from prison. Sowers initially thought his $20,000 goal was unattainable, but hit it just days later, so he raised his goal to $50,000. With donations exceeding $40,000, Sowers chose an even more “insane” threshold of $106,360.

A request for an interview with Jones was directed to his lead attorney, Cary Sandman.

Conover said it’s important for everyone to make sure Jones’ life gets back on track.

“What the community needs is for Jones to make the most of his time, stay healthy, reunite with his family, support his family and be a productive member of society,” she said. said.

Sandmann and Sowers said they are working to ensure Jones obtains permanent residence, state identification, and a bank account for funds raised for him. The team plans to help Jones enroll in Medicare when he turns 65 in August. They also said they hope to eventually help Jones find a place to work.

But for now, Sandmann said Jones’ focus is on rebuilding her relationship with her family.

“He’s not angry, he’s not bitter. He wants to make the most of every moment,” Sandman said.

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