Catching up, after three decades in prison for a crime she didn't do

LOS ANGELES - Mary Jones is in her 70s, but she just began a new life.

She was released from prison this week after serving more than three decades behind bars -- for a crime she didn't commit.

"I just knew in my spirit that it wasn't right," she said. "And I knew that God was going to open the doors in his time."

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Mary Jones was released from prison after 32 years behind bars
CBS News
Thirty-two years ago Jones fell in love with a man named Mose Willis.

"Not knowing who he really was," she said.

She acknowledged that he was not a good guy.

Willis killed someone during a drug deal in an alley. Jones drove him there.

She said he forced her.

"At gunpoint, yes," she said.

She believes that he would have killed her if she had refused.

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Mary Jones with her lawyers
CBS News
In 1981 she was convicted of first-degree murder and given a life sentence.

But Jones' case was reopened with help from Laura Donaldson and other law students at the University of Southern California. They argued Jones had been abused by her boyfriend and forced into the crime. On Monday, a judge ordered her released and Jones' family released their joy. Her daughter, Denitra, spoke outside the courthouse.

"I'm excited," she said. "We got a lot of mother's days to catch up on."

On Wednesday, she took her mom to the DMV to get an ID card. Jones is now 74.

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Mary Jones' daughter, Denitra
CBS News
What did she miss in the 32 years?

"Well, I missed my grandbabies," she said. "I didn't get to hold them on my lap. I didn't get to see them crawl. So I missed all of that. I did."

Behind bars, Jones started a Bible study group and was known as "Mother Mary." Former inmate Patricia Elder was there to welcome her when she was freed.

"You become like family, when you're there for all that many years with people," Jones said.

What did she learn while in prison?

"I learned patience," she said.

She had to.

"Yes, you do," she said. "You have to hurry up and wait."

She waited for 11,875 days.

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Former inmate Patricia Elder and Mary Jones
CBS News

  • Ben Tracy

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