Rolling Out

Grandmother wrongly convicted of murder free after 32 years

Mary Virginia Jones
Mary Virginia Jones, known as “Mother Mary” by the community

Mary Virginia Jones is a woman of strong faith in God. So strong is her faith, that she took pity on a homeless man with whom she later became emotionally involved. She fed this man, took him to church and even let him live in her house. They later became boyfriend and girlfriend. Jones was never in trouble with the law, owned her house, worked at the Los Angeles Unified School District as a teacher’s aide, and was raising her children. The man, Mose Willis, became abusive repaying her love and  kindness by making Jones an accessory to murder. Almost 31 years ago, Jones, known as Mother Mary by family and friends was kidnapped at gunpoint by Willis. He made her pick up two drug dealers and drive to an alley. While in that alley, Willis killed the two men and Jones took off running for her life to a friend’s house. She stayed hidden until police arrested her a few days later. Jones has spent the past 31 years in jail and Willis died on death row awaiting execution.

Now the 74-year-old grandmother is set to be released after the University of Southern California’s Post-Conviction Justice Project took up her case. According to a statement they released, Jones would not have been convicted if the jury had heard expert testimony on the impact of battered women’s syndrome, also known as intimate partner battering. The co-director of the group, Heidi Rummel further stated, “Mr. Willis forced Jones at gunpoint to participate in the robbery and kidnapping — she ran down the alley fully expecting him to shoot and kill her too.”

At the new trial, the judge reduced her sentence to voluntary manslaughter and time served. Her original conviction was for first degree murder with no possibility of parole. The family of Mary Jones erupted in cheers at the news that their mother and grandmother’s release. According to family and friends, Jones never stopped believing in her innocence and in God.

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