A Louisiana man is celebrating his freedom after spending over four decades behind bars for a crime that he claims he didn’t commit, NBC News reported.
Wilbert Jones, 65, was given a life sentence without parole after allegedly abducting a nurse outside of Baton Rouge hospital and raping her 46 years ago, the news outlet writes. Jones—who was 19 at the time of his arrest—was sentenced in 1974. He maintained his innocence during the entire ordeal and made several attempts to have his conviction overthrown.
The Innocence Project investigated his case in 2013 and discovered that another man who was a serial rapist had committed a similar crime weeks after the nurse was attacked, according to NBC News. However, the information about that particular incident was never on the radar of Jones’ lawyers. Another discrepancy in the case was the fact that the nurse who was attacked picked Jones out of a lineup but claimed that he sounded different and wasn’t as tall as her attacker. Jones was put behind bars solely based on the nurse’s account, despite the fact that there were several inconsistencies.
On Wednesday, nearly three weeks after his birthday, Baton Rouge Judge Richard Anderson released Jones on a $2,000 bond, claiming that there wasn’t enough evidence to show that he committed the crime. “This Court finds that the State’s case against Jones was weak, at best,” read Anderson’s ruling, according to the New York Times. “There was no forensic or physical evidence linking Jones to the rape of A. H. The State’s case against Jones rested entirely on A. H.’s testimony and questionable identification.”
Jones told NBC News that he plans on using his experience behind bars to teach the youth about the importance of staying on the right path and avoiding prison. Although Jones’ loved ones are happy that he’s home just in time for the holidays, Jones may face an obstacle that could send him back to prison. According to the news outlet, East Baton Rouge Parish district attorney Hillar Moore says that he will file an appeal against the Supreme Court’s decision.
Blacks being put behind bars for crimes that they did not commit has been an ongoing issue in the flawed justice system. Earlier this year a report titled “Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States,” indicated that a majority of individuals who are exonerated for crimes that they didn’t commit are people of color.