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8th ncarolina death row inmate freed { May 6 2008 }

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Freed death row inmate wants police, lawyers punished
McClatchy Regional News
Tuesday, May. 6, 2008
updated 7:19 am

RALEIGH Freed death row inmate Levon "Bo" Jones said Monday that the prosecutors and police in his case should be punished for withholding favorable evidence at his 1993 trial.

''They should be accountable for everything they did," Jones, 49, said at a Raleigh news conference. "They should be prosecuted for the wrong they've done, I feel like. Justice should be done."

But the district attorney who prosecuted Jones at trial -- and dropped all charges against him last week -- said Jones should instead blame his trial lawyers for doing such a poor job that a federal judge ordered a new trial.

''I've had an open-file policy for 15 or 20 years," District Attorney Dewey Hudson said Monday. "Anything I had, all they had to do was walk into my office and look at my file. I presented the evidence to the jury, which found him guilty. I did my job."

The case is over, Hudson said. "The guy's won. What's all this bashing Dewey Hudson about? I've done nothing wrong."

Jones is the eighth North Carolina inmate freed from death row since 1974. His release comes amid a re-examination of capital punishment in the state, where the death penalty has been on hold since last year because of several legal challenges to it.

A Duplin County jury in 1993 convicted Jones of first-degree murder in the 1987 shooting death of bootlegger Leamon Grady.

Crumbled testimony

The prosecution's case rested largely on the testimony of Lovely Lorden, Jones' girlfriend at the time. But as Jones' appeal lawyers later discovered, Lorden was a paid informant who gave investigators conflicting statements, unbeknownst to his trial lawyers.

In a Dec. 5, 2007, affidavit prepared by Jones' lawyers, Lorden recanted her trial testimony.

Lorden said law officers threatened her with prosecution, coached her testimony and paid her $4,000.

''Much of what I testified to was simply not true," she said. A sheriff's deputy "let me know what he wanted me to say," she said.

A federal judge ordered a new trial two years ago because Jones' court-appointed trial lawyers had not given him a proper defense.

But it was Lorden's reversal that prompted Hudson on Friday to drop the charges against Jones instead of launching a new trial.

Hudson also said he believes Lorden's trial testimony was true, and he thinks Jones' trial jury was correct to convict him.

That angered Jones' present team of three lawyers.

''We were a little upset, to say the least, by the comments made by the prosecutor," Jones' lead lawyer, Ernest "Buddy" Conner, said Monday. "But for the changing stories of Lovely Lorden, Bo wouldn't have been charged. ...There is no credible evidence that supports his guilt."

Jones' lawyers said he's factually innocent but came within two months of execution in 1997.

''The fact that an innocent man was almost executed is evidence of a fundamental crisis with the death penalty," said one of them, Cassie Stubbs of the American Civil Liberties Union's Durham office. "A system that is so broken that it can't protect the innocent should not be trusted with life-and-death decisions."

Hudson questioned why Jones' defense team waited four months to notify him of Lorden's recantation. Once Hudson verified the authenticity of her affidavit, he promptly dismissed the case against Jones, he said.

''They should have filed that affidavit to the court in December -- I would have dismissed it in January instead of May," he said. "If their client is so innocent, why would they allow him to sit in jail for four more months?"

Jones said he's looking forward to spending time with relatives and friends and getting "reacquainted with society."

''From the day I was locked up, August 14, 1992, I said I was innocent, until this day," Jones said. "I've always been innocent. I hope you all believe the same."

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8th ncarolina death row inmate freed { May 6 2008 }
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