Supreme Court Rules 'Innocence Isn't Enough' To Overturn Black Man's Conviction Of Murder

·3 min read

Barry Jones, who sits on death row in Arizona after being convicted in 1995 for the rape and murder of his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter, is still facing execution despite evidence indicating that he may be innocent.

Jones had his conviction overturned in 2018 when a federal court concluded that he hadn’t received effective counsel, which is a violation of his Sixth Amendment rights, according to The Daily Beast.

“There is a reasonable probability that his jury would not have convicted him of any of the crimes with which he was charged and previously convicted,” a federal judge ruled.

Arizona’s attorney general appealed the decision to the Supreme Court after losing in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. State prosecutors then continued to stand against Jones, saying his “innocence isn’t enough” to throw out his conviction.

With a 6-3 vote on Monday, the Supreme Court agreed that Jones’ innocence is not enough to set him free.

When 4-year-old Rachel Gray died of a laceration of her small intestine, prosecutors said Jones must have caused the injury when he was taking care of her on May 1, 1994. Speaking with Liliana Segura, who published an extensive article for The Intercept in 2017, Jones said the little girl died under his watch, but he never killed her.

According to Jones, the 4-year-old hit her head when she fell out of a car while playing with other children. The next morning, the child’s mother, Angela Gray, found her daughter unresponsive in her room. The girl was then rushed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Segura presented evidence from three medical experts who defended Jones. Dr. Janice Ophoven, a renowned pediatric forensic pathologist who reviewed evidence from Rachel’s autopsy in 2002, said the girl’s intestinal injury “could not possibly have been inflicted on the day prior to her death.”

Dr. Mary Pat McKay, who also reviewed the evidence in 2009, said there is “absolutely zero evidence” to indicate that Rachel’s fatal injury occurred within 24 hours of death.

Dr. Phillip Keen made his case in an affidavit in 2017, according to Segura.

“Rachel’s small bowel laceration was not inflicted on May 1, 1994, and thus Jones’s jury was misled to believe otherwise,” Keen wrote, according to The Intercept.

According to Vox, Jones’ lawyers have been accused of failing to present evidence that could have proven his innocence.

“Jones’ trial counsel failed to undertake even a cursory investigation and, as a result, did not uncover readily available medical evidence that could have shown that Rachel sustained her injuries when she was not in Jones’ care,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissenting opinion released on Monday, Vox reports.

The ruling in Jones’ case adds to the concern of Black defendants, who continue to disproportionately face the death penalty. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, innocent Black people are seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than innocent white people.

“Racial disparities are present at every stage of a capital case and get magnified as a case moves through the legal process,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said in a statement on the center’s website. “If you don’t understand the history — that the modern death penalty is the direct descendant of slavery, lynching, and Jim Crow-segregation — you won’t understand why.”