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After Twists, Turns In Court, AZ Inmate Freed After Nearly 30 Years

Barry Jones, an Arizona death row inmate walked free last week after serving nearly three decades for the death of a child, after his guilty convictions and death sentence were thrown out Jones, 64, was sentenced in Pima County to death after being found guilty of fatally assaulting Rachel Gray, the 4-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, in 1994. He had been on death row since July 1995, the Arizona Republic reports. Jones became the first Arizona death row inmate to walk free since Debra Milke in 2015 and the fifth exonerated since 2000. At a trial in 1995, Jones was found guilty of first-degree murder, sex with a minor, endangerment, and causing physical harm to a minor. Jones appealed his case, and the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. He then appealed the case to a federal court, where a new investigation revealed that neighboring boys had hit Rachel in the stomach with a metal bar a day or two before her death. Detectives believed this caused her internal bleeding.

These findings, in part, swayed a federal judge and eventually led the Arizona attorney general to persuade Pima County prosecutors to offer a plea deal and vacate the murder conviction. In 2018, a federal district court judge ordered that Jones’ convictions were to be vacated based on the compelling medical evidence that it was not Jones who caused Rachel Gray’s injuries. A unanimous panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that order. The U.S. Supreme Court ignored its own precedent and said federal courts had no power to consider the case. Despite the high court decision, the state of Arizona was able to reconsider the new evidence. After review, the attorney general agreed that Jones' conviction and death sentence should be vacated and asked the Pima County Superior Court to vacate them both. As a result, Jones agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder because he neglected to take Rachel Gray to the hospital the night before she died, despite seeing how sick she was.


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