A Massachusetts man serving a life sentence without parole has been granted a hearing in his attempt to get a new trial.
Darrell Jones was convicted more than three decades ago for a murder he's always maintained he did not commit.
Plymouth County Superior Court Judge Thomas McGuire ordered the evidentiary hearing Tuesday after reviewing expert forensic analysis of a videotape. The video was the key piece of evidence used by prosecutors to convict Jones.
During Jones' 1986 trial, none of the eyewitnesses to the murder could identify him in court, no motive was established, and there was no physical evidence linking Jones to the shooting of an alleged cocaine dealer in a dimly lit Brockton parking lot.
But during their investigation, Brockton detectives had videotaped an interview with one of the eyewitnesses — Terie Lynn Starks. The videotape, which was shown to jurors during Jones' trial, showed Starks identifying Jones as the shooter.
After Starks identifies Jones, something bizarre happens to the video. The screen goes blank, and then there's a short segment from the 1950s sitcom "The Phil Silvers Show" — a singing soldier appears in the middle of the eyewitness interview.
Jones' defense attorneys contend Brockton police deliberately tampered with the video. They hired two experts to examine the tape. The forensic scientists concluded that not only was as much as 136 seconds of the interview edited out, but the video was a copy. Which means it's possible the original video was not shown during Jones' trial.
Police would later say the so called "crash edit" was an honest pre-trial mistake. But defense experts say it was on purpose, and according to an affidavit recently obtained by Jones' lawyers, Starks, the witness in the video, now says she cooperated with detectives hoping it would help with the prostitution charges she faced.
The Plymouth County district attorney isn't buying it.
“From our standpoint, there has not been any new and substantial issue presented that was not already apparent from the record at the time Mr. Jones’ conviction was affirmed on appeal," prosecutors said in a statement. "We are aware of the evidentiary hearing and look forward once again to addressing the facts of this case in court.”
Defense attorneys for Jones were not available for comment.
Judge McGuire has limited the evidentiary hearing to the videotape. Jones' lawyers have to prove Brockton detectives intentionally tampered with it to remove statements favorable to Jones. If so, he could get a new trial.
The hearing is expected to be held early next year.
This segment aired on November 30, 2016.