A 74-year-old woman was released from prison late Monday night after her conviction in a 1981 double-murder was set aside by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and her sentence was reduced.
Family and friends greeted Mary Virginia Jones with hugs and flowers as she walked out of Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood.
“Words cannot express my gratitude to God and to my fellow man,” Jones said after being released.
Friends said they had waited a long time for her to be released from prison.
“We waited for this day a long time,” Mary Thompson said. “It’s exciting to see her finally vindicated.”
Jones was freed from prison hours after appearing in a Los Angeles courtroom where a judge reduced her sentence to voluntary manslaughter and time-served.
Cries of joy erupted in the courtroom when it was announced that Jones, known as “Mother Mary” to friends and family, would go free.
“My mother never wavered on her belief of No. 1, her innocence, and the fact that she never should have been in custody,” Jones’ daughter, Demitra Jones-Goodie, said Monday.
Jones was convicted of first degree murder without the possibility of parole for her role in the 1981 murder of two men, until students at University of Southern California Law School’s Post-Conviction Justice Project intervened and had her case reopened.
The DA’s office conducted an independent investigation and set aside her convictions in exchange for a no contest to plea to voluntary manslaughter, according to a USC Gould School of Law release.
Jones was held at gunpoint and ordered to drive two kidnapped men to an alley where they were later murdered, the release stated.
The USC students representing Jones argued that she would not have been convicted if the jury in the case had heard expert testimony on the effects of Battered Women’s Syndrome, also known as intimate partner battering, according to the release.
Before the crime, Jones never had a run-in with the law, worked full time for the Los Angeles Unified School District as a teacher’s aid and was raising her children, Heidi Rummel of the USC Project said.
Upon her release, Jones said she was looking forward to going home and that she was planning to visit her sister in Alabama.