Official exoneration for man freed last year in 1971 rape

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A legal ordeal that dragged on for close to half a century is officially over for a man wrongfully convicted in a 1971 rape.

The advocacy group Innocence Project New Orleans said Thursday that prosecutors in Baton Rouge officially dismissed charges against Wilbert Jones in the kidnapping and rape of a nurse at Baton Rouge General Hospital.

At age 65, Jones was released from the state prison at Angola last November after spending nearly 46 years behind bars. The release came after state District Judge Richard Anderson overturned the conviction, saying the case against Jones was weak and that evidence favoring his case had been withheld.

Prosecutors in East Baton Rouge Parish had indicated they would not seek to retry Jones. But they did seek a review of the case at Louisiana’s Supreme Court. That court rejected the appeal Monday.

“Mr. Jones was exonerated today after 46 years and nine months wrongly charged with a rape he did not commit,” attorney Emily Maw of the Innocence Project New Orleans said in a Thursday news release. “His conviction was not reversed on a technical legal issue.”

The Innocence Project New Orleans, which took up Jones’ case in 2001, said the victim had told police she was not 100 percent certain when she picked Jones from a lineup months after the crime. They also said evidence linking a suspected serial rapist to the case — one who matched the victim’s description of her attacker — was never given to the defense. Anderson agreed last year, overturned the conviction and ordered Jones released on bail.


This story has been corrected to fix date of rape in headline and clarify group name in last paragraph.