A Massachusetts judge granted a hearing to examine whether police tampered with evidence in the case of Darrell Jones, convicted three decades ago for a murder he says he didn’t commit.
The evidentiary hearing granted by Plymouth County Superior Court Justice Thomas McGuire, Jr. came after Jones’s lawyers presented expert testimony that a videotape played at Jones’s trial showing a witness identifying him was missing a segment and was intentionally edited, not accidentally recorded over as police contended.
Jones was convicted of killing alleged Cuban drug dealer Guillermo Rodriguez in Brockton. He is an inmate in the maximum-security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley. The judge’s decision “is a huge first step,” said Lisa Kavanaugh, Jones’s attorney and director of the Innocence Program at the state Committee for Public Counsel Services in Somerville.
Jones previously failed in an immediate appeal of his conviction, and in two later motions aimed at a retrial. Beth Stone, a spokeswoman from the Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office, said Tuesday that prosecutors “look forward once again to addressing the facts of this case in court.” Stone said “there has not been any new and substantial issue presented that was not already apparent from the record at the time that Mr. Jones’s conviction was affirmed on appeal.”
Jones’s effort to re-open his case was the subject of a January story by the Eye and WBUR Public Radio, which raised questions about the tape and other issues in the trial. The tape bizarrely cut away to a segment of the Phil Silvers Show, a 1950’s sit-com, in between segments showing a witness being questioned by police and identifying Jones from a photo array.
McGuire’s Nov. 20 ruling limited discussion at the hearing to whether police intentionally tampered with the tape and omitted portions that could be exculpatory.