commentary by Patrick H. Moore

Wisdom, kindness and patience, these are all words that would capture some of the best qualities of a good teacher or, in this case a good teacher’s aide named Mary Virginia Jones. Prior to getting involved with desperado Mose Willis at around the age of 40, Jones had been an avid church goer. She had never been arrested.

Then Mary Jones had the misfortune to meet Willis. Willis was homeless and although I don’t know for sure, I suspect he had a good line. What is known is that Mary wanted to help Willis transform his life for the better.

court8This was not to be. At some point after becoming intimate with Willis, Mary discovered that her boyfriend was a very abusive man. Her role in their relationship deteriorated into that of his personal punching bag.

When I say that Willis was a desperado, I am not engaging in hyperbole. In the sort of extreme street action that you do not want to be a part of, 33 years ago Willis kidnapped two drug dealers in a phony cocaine deal and forced Mary to drive them all to a Los Angeles alley where with Mary as his witness, he killed one of the dealers and shot the other, who survived. With her heart no doubt beating like a hammer, and expecting that she too would be killed, Jones managed to flee but was arrested as an accomplice to the murder a few days later while hiding out at a friend’s house.

During her trial, Mary Jones contended that she was forced to follow Willis’ demands or face death.  

court10Just a week before he shot the cocaine dealer, Willis had shot at Mary’s’ daughter, Denitra, and threatened to kill them both if the mother went to the police.

“He pulled a gun on me and shot at me, and my mother witnessed that,” Denetra Jones-Goodie told NBC Los Angeles.

“He threatened not only to kill me, but to kill her and anybody else that came to our aid.”

At the trial, Mose Willis was convicted of first degree murder and armed robbery and kidnapping. He was sentenced to death but died while on Death Row in 1988. It took three hung juries and four long painful trials but Mary was also finally convicted and sentenced to life without parole.

*     *     *     *     *

court9On Monday, the 74-year-old “Mother Mary,” as she is lovingly referred to by friends and family, was ordered released from prison by a Los Angeles judge as a result of the heroic efforts of law professor Heidi Rummel and her law students from the University of Southern California’s Post-Conviction Justice Project.

The students argued Mary would not have been convicted in the first place if the jury had heard testimony on the effects of intimate partner battering, formerly known as battered women’s syndrome.

1809632_me_0325_mary_jones_release_01_FO.jpgJones walked out of Century Regional Detention Facility in Lynwood, California at around 11 p.m. Monday to a waiting swarm of family and friends.

Patricia Elder, 55, was among those who greeted Mary upon her release. She told The Los Angeles Times Jones had been her “spiritual mother” during the time they served in prison together. Elder was released in 2001.

“She showed us how to walk the walk with God and be faithful,” Elder said. “She had a light that just shined.”

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5 Responses to 72-Year-Old Mother Jones Released from California Prison after 32 Years

  1. Duffy1958 says:

    It took all these years to figure out if someone holds a gun on another person, they WILL comply? Hmmmmm SMH Discouraging. Prayers for Mary Jones & family-friends.

    • PatrickHMoore says:

      She was a black woman in Los Angeles and that’s all it took for her to be railroaded. She stayed strong, though, no doubt stronger than I would have been.

  2. Darcia Helle says:

    Another tragic injustice that took far too long to make right.

  3. Rick says:

    If I’m not mistaken, Mother Mary’s attorney, Heidi Rummels, is a former colleague of mine at the U.S. Attorney’s Office who left to teach at USC. That goes to show you some Feds (and former Feds) do have a heart. :)

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