Wilbert Jones Walks Free After 46 Years in Prison: 'I Thank God for My Family'
The Louisiana inmate had his conviction overturned after nearly 50 years in prison
After 46 years behind bars, Wilbert Jones has walked out of a Louisiana prison and into the arms of his family.
The 65-year-old was just 19 when he was arrested for the kidnapping and rape of a Baton Rouge nurse who was abducted from a hospital parking lot.
Two weeks ago, a judge overturned Jones' conviction, saying the prosecution withheld evidence that could have led to his acquittal. The "highly favorable" information would have helped Jones' lawyers, the judge said.
"I had hope," Jones told reporters outside the prison gates Wednesday. "With God, all things are possible."
State District Judge Richard Anderson had called the prosecution's case against Jones "weak at best."
Jones and his family members wept as they embraced.
"I never gave up on him," said Jones' brother, Plem Jones. "It wasn't but a matter of time... he'll be taken care of well."
Jones said he just wanted to live free.
"I thank God for my family," he said. "I thank God for my legal team and I thank God for God."
He had asked for gumbo and mashed potatoes for his first meal as a free man.
"The community has changed so much since he was locked up," said Warden Timothy Hooper, who called Jones a model inmate and testified on his behalf during a hearing on whether he should be released.
The case against Jones relied on the nurse's testimony and her "questionable identification" of Jones months after she was assaulted. She picked Jones out of a lineup, but said her rapist was taller and had a "much rougher voice."
Jones' defense attorneys alleged the nurse's description actually matched another man who was arrested, but never charged, with the abduction and rape of another woman taken from another Baton Rouge hospital. That attack occurred 27 days after the first rape.
The same man was arrested for another rape in 1973, but was convicted and charged with only armed robbery.
Judge Anderson said the prosecution failed to share that information with the defense.
The Innocence Project in New Orleans joined Jones' defense team 15 years ago.
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