Bail set for con­vict af­ter ’71 case thrown out

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

BA­TON ROUGE — A Louisiana man who has spent nearly 50 years in prison came a step closer to be­ing freed Tues­day when state District Judge Richard An­der­son set his bail Tues­day at $2,000 about two weeks af­ter his con­vic­tion in the 1971 kid­nap­ping and rape of a nurse was over­turned.

Wil­bert Jones didn’t show any vis­i­ble re­ac­tion when An­der­son set his bail. The judge pre­vi­ously said the case against Jones was “weak, at best” and that au­thor­i­ties with­held ev­i­dence that could have ex­on­er­ated Jones decades ago.

While prose­cu­tors said they will ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to re­view the judge’s de­ci­sion, they do not in­tend to retry Jones.

Jones, now 65, was 19 when po­lice ar­rested him on sus­pi­cion of ab­duct­ing a nurse at gun­point from a Ba­ton Rouge hos­pi­tal’s park­ing lot and rap­ing her be­hind a build­ing on the night of Oct. 2, 1971. Jones was con­victed of ag­gra­vated rape at a 1974 re­trial and sen­tenced to life in prison with­out the pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role.

The state’s case against Jones “rested en­tirely” on the nurse’s tes­ti­mony and her “ques­tion­able iden­ti­fi­ca­tion” of Jones as her as­sailant, the judge has said. The nurse, who died in 2008, picked Jones out of a po­lice lineup more than three months af­ter the rape. But she also told po­lice that the man who raped her was taller and had a “much rougher” voice than Jones had.

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