Man Released After 29 Years on Death Row by Arizona State Court, Despite U.S. Supreme Court Refusing to Free Him

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By The Vanguard Staff

TUCSON, AZ – A federal district court judge five years ago ordered Barry Jones’ conviction overturned and death sentence vacated, but the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a defense statement, refused to act, ignoring “its own precedents to hold that the federal courts would not be permitted to even consider the new evidence proving (Jones) was wrongfully convicted.”

Thursday, however, Pima County Superior Court vacated his convictions and death sentence, a statement from global law firm Squire Patton Boggs stated Thursday. 

“Today, Barry Jones was granted his freedom decades after he was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in Arizona for fatally assaulting Rachel Gray, a four-year-old child,” according to the statement.

“A federal district court judge ordered in 2018 that Mr. Jones’s convictions be vacated based on the compelling medical evidence that it was not Barry Jones who caused Rachel’s fatal injuries; and a unanimous panel of Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed,” but last year the SCOTUS refused to set Jones free, noted the statement for Jones.

But the Supreme Court did not block the state of Arizona from reconsidering the evidence and “the Arizona Attorney General agreed that Mr. Jones’s conviction for assaulting Rachel and the resulting death sentence could not stand. The Arizona Attorney General joined Mr. Jones in asking the Pima County Superior Court to vacate his convictions and death sentence,” according to a defense statement.

“After almost 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit, Barry Jones is finally coming home,” said Federal Public Defender Cary Sandman, whose office has represented Barry Jones for over 20 years. “Mr. Jones spent nearly three decades on Arizona’s death row despite compelling evidence that he was innocent of charges that he had fatally assaulted Rachel Gray.”

Jones now has agreed to plead guilty to second degree murder, because, said the defense, he “neglected  to take Rachel to the hospital on the night before she died, despite seeing how sick she was, from a still unknown fatal internal injury.” Jones is sentenced to time served.

“The flawed evidence supporting Barry’s convictions and death sentence resulted from a combination of shoddy and constitutionally deficient defense lawyering, junk science and myopic police work,” said Sandman. 

The federal defender added, “Two federal courts granted him habeas corpus relief, but he remained on death row because of a 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Shinn v. Ramirez and Jones. In Shinn, the Court gutted its own precedents and rendered federal courts powerless to even consider the very evidence proving Barry had been wrongfully convicted and denied a constitutionally just trial.”

The defense said at Jones’s 1995 trial, Arizona prosecutors “claimed that Rachel died as a result of an injury she sustained while in his care. This could have been easily disproven. 

“But Mr. Jones’s court-appointed lawyer failed to conduct any investigation and, as a result, did not discover readily available medical evidence that would have proven beyond any doubt that Rachel sustained her internal injuries when she was not in Mr. Jones’s care. Because Mr. Jones’s jury heard none of this evidence, it convicted him, and the trial judge sentenced him to death.”

“We are profoundly grateful to the Arizona Attorney General and the Pima County Attorney for taking a fresh look at Mr. Jones’s case and acknowledging he had never received a fair trial, just as the federal district court and the Ninth Circuit had previously found. We hope that Barry can enjoy the rest of his life in peace surrounded by his family and friends,” said Sandman.

U.S. District Judge Timothy M. Burgess (whose decision vacating Mr. Jones’s conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court last year) will hold a status conference June 21 “to formally close Mr. Jones’s federal habeas proceedings,” said the defense.

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