LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A 74-year-old woman will be released after serving 32 years in prison for a murder committed by her abusive boyfriend, a judge ruled Monday.
Mary Virginia Jones was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery in a 1981 shooting death.
Jones was freed though USC's Post-Conviction Justice Project, which claims her boyfriend, Mose Willis, kidnapped two drug dealers and forced the woman to drive to an alley, where he shot both men. One of them was killed.
"She ran down the alley fully expecting him to shoot and kill her, too," said Heidi Rummel, co-director of the USC justice project and the supervising defense attorney on the case.
Willis, who was sentenced to death, died while on death row.
A week before the shooting, Willis shot at Jones' daughter, Denitra, and threatened to kill both of them if they contacted police.
"He pulled a gun on me and shot at me, and my mother witnessed that," said Jones-Goodie. "And he threatened to not only kill me but to kill her and anybody else that came to our aid."
Law students at USC's Post-Conviction Project argued Jones would not have been convicted if the jury had heard testimony on the effects of intimate partner battery, previously known as "Battered Women's Syndrome."
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan Monday set aside Jones' earlier convictions.
The District Attorney's Office also probed the case and agreed in advance to accept a plea of no contest to voluntary manslaughter in exchange for Jones' release. Jones has already served 11,875 days, which exceeds the 11-year maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter.
"I did not willingly participate in this crime, but I believe that entering a no contest plea is in my best interest to get out of custody," Jones read from a statement in court.
Cries of joy and relief filled the courtroom when Jones was given credit for time served and ordered to be set free.
After 32 years, Jones is scheduled to be released after midnight Tuesday. Authorities said she was not released Monday morning because of paperwork.
"She never should have been incarcerated in the first place, but she's free, thank God," said Jones-Goodie, who described the day as an emotional roller coaster. "She was expecting and hoping to be led out of the courtroom."
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