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Mary Virginia Jones to be released from prison after 32 years

A 74-year-old woman who served 32 years for a murder committed by an abusive boyfriend will be released from prison.
March 24, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
A 74-year-old woman who served 32 years for a murder committed by an abusive boyfriend will be released from prison, a Los Angeles judge ruled Monday.

Known as "Mother Mary" to friends and family, Mary Virginia Jones was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murder, kidnapping and robbery in a fatal shooting in 1981.

Her abuser, Mose Willis, kidnapped two men and ordered Jones at gunpoint to drive a car to a back alley in Los Angeles, where Willis shot the men. Jones ran and was arrested a few days later.

Recently, law students at the University of Southern California's Post-Conviction Justice Project challenged her case, claiming she would not have been convicted if the jury had heard expert testimony about the impact of intimate partner battering, formerly referred to as battered women's syndrome.

A week before the crime, Willis shot at Jones' daughter and threatened to kill them if they went to the police, according to officials with the USC project.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's office reviewed the case and agreed to set aside her convictions if she pled no contest to voluntary manslaughter.

"I did not willingly participate in this crime, but I believe entering a no contest plea is in my best interest," Jones told the judge Monday.

With credit for time served, Jones regained her freedom, prompting cries of joy in the courtroom. While they waited for her official release from custody, Jones' children and friends celebrated her legal victory.

"My mother never wavered on her belief of...her innocence and the fact that she never should have been in custody and the fact that she is being released today. She knew this day was coming," said Jones' daughter, Denitra Jones-Goodie.

Jones is expected to be released on Tuesday. Her children say they're just looking forward to sitting down at the dinner table with their mother for the first time in more than three decades.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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