Jones was 16 when two gunmen shot gang member Henry Harrison, 17, to death in North Philly in May 1973. An hour after the slaying, police, seeking a man with a red skullcap, arrested Jones, wearing a red skullcap, outside his home nine blocks away.
Although Jones confessed to the crime and surrendered the .25-caliber gun that he said he fired at Harrison, ballistics tests excluded him as the killer because they showed that Harrison was shot with a .22-caliber gun. Although there were more than 30 witnesses, none identified Jones as the killer. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project is fighting to free Jones, saying that he was convicted solely on his own statements, which did not match the facts of the crime.
In the appeal, lawyer Hunt asked Philadelphia Common Pleas Court to reconsider Jones' sentence in light of the high court's ruling, which cited legal precedents and recent science concerning the brain development of minors, to declare that automatic life-without-parole sentences are cruel and unusual punishment for children. About 2,600 people nationwide are serving that sentence for crimes that they committed as juveniles; Pennsylvania leads the country, with 480 juvenile lifers.
"Because juveniles have diminished culpability and greater prospects for reform … ‘they are less deserving of the most severe punishments,'" Jones' petition states.
Contact Dana DiFilippo at 215-854-5934, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DanaDiFilippo. Read her blog at phillyconfidential.com.