Darrell Jones of Boston has steadfastly maintained his innocence of a murder that has kept him in prison for more than three decades. On Tuesday, on his third attempt, the 50-year-old man learned he would get a new trial, reports the New England Center for Investigative Reporting in the Boston Globe. Judge Thomas McGuire overturned Jones’s conviction for the 1985 murder of Guillermo Rodriguez in a parking lot, saying the case was tainted by racial bias and misconduct.
Jones filed a motion to reopen his case based on allegations that police tampered with a videotaped interview of a key witness to remove exculpatory evidence. The tape, shown at his trial, was pivotal because none of the eyewitnesses testified that they were sure Jones was the shooter. Juror Eleanor Urbati, a white woman who always regretted convicting Jones, said two jurors had told her they thought the defendant was guilty because he was black. McGuire summoned Urbati to court in what is believed to be the first such review in Massachusetts since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that a trial judge must pry into typically secret discussions if there is evidence of racial bias. McGuire also interviewed three other jurors who couldn’t remember any allegations of racism during deliberations of the all-white panel. McGuire said racial allegations are important in a state with a “long, sad history of racial bias that persists today.” The unidentified juror was “racially biased” and “he was not joking. He was not being sarcastic,’’ the judge wrote. “The defendant did not receive a trial before an impartial jury.”