(KTLA/CNN) – Screams erupted from a Los Angeles courtroom Monday when a 74-year-old woman who spent the last 32 years in prison received a reduced sentence and was scheduled to be released.
Mary Virginia Jones, shown in a family photo, was set to be released from prison March 24, 2014, after serving 32 years for conviction on two murder charges.
“My mother never wavered on her belief of, number one, her innocence, and the fact that she never should have been in custody,” said Denitra Jones, daughter of Mary Virginia Jones, who was scheduled to be released on Monday by LA Superior Court Judge William Ryan.
Mary Jones, known as “Mother Mary” to family and friends, was charged with first degree murder without the possibility of parole in 1982 after she was ordered, at gunpoint, to drive two kidnapped men to an alley in Los Angeles where they were later murdered, a USC Gould School of Law news release stated.
Mose Willis, a homeless man who had begun living with Jones and attending church with her a few months before the 1981 crime occurred, kidnapped two drug dealers and ordered Jones to drive a car to the alley, according to the release.
Willis shot both men as Jones ran from the scene and stayed at a friend’s house until she was arrested a few days later, the release stated.
Willis died several years ago on death row, Denitra Jones said.
Before the 1981 crime, Jones never had a run-in with the law, owned her own home, worked full-time for the Los Angeles Unified School District as a teacher’s aid, and was raising her kids, Heidi Rummel of the USC Justice Project said.
Mary Jones was represented by law students at USC’s Post-Conviction Justice Project who said Jones would not have been convicted if the jury had heard expert testimony on the effects of Battered Women’s Syndrome, also known as intimate partner battering, the release stated.
“Mr. Willis forced Jones at gunpoint to participate in the robbery and kidnapping. She ran down the alley fully expecting him to shoot and kill her, too,” co-director of USC’s Post-Conviction Justice Project Heidi Rummel said.
Jones’s daughter and son attended the hearing.
“It has not been the same for any of us, me in particular, since my mother has been gone,” she said. “I really felt as though I had lost a part of my being.”