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Judge Rules Against Darrell Jones, Says Evidence Can't Be Suppressed In New Murder Trial

Darrell Jones after his 2017 release (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Darrell Jones after his 2017 release (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

A Massachusetts man who served 32 years in prison before his conviction was overturned two years ago will be put on trial again, after a judge denied defense attorneys' attempts to throw out what they argued was faulty evidence.

In a 39-page decision, Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Robert Cosgrove denied Darrell Jones' attempt to suppress witness identifications from the 1985 Brockton murder of Guillermo Rodrigues.

Defense attorney Paul Rudof claimed police intimidated and coerced five eyewitnesses and used improper techniques when showing them photo lineups. He also argued that some of the witnesses were high on cocaine and intoxicated at the scene of the crime.

Cosgrove ruled that despite using outmoded methods of photo identification that would not be permitted as evidence in court today, the police did not violate due process or prejudice witnesses into identifying Jones as the shooter.

"Eye witness identification is an invaluable law enforcement tool in obtaining accurate convictions, but also the greatest source of wrongful conviction," the judge wrote.

The judge said Jones' attempt to suppress the evidence "did not meet his burden that the identifications were suggestive or conducive to irreparable misidentification."

The day of the murder, Nov. 11, 1985, Brockton police detectives interviewed five people who were in a parking lot on the rainy, near moonless night when Rodrigues was shot and killed.

All of the witnesses described the killer as being several inches shorter than the victim. Jones was just an inch shorter.

The eyewitnesses' testimony before a grand jury frequently contradicted each other and what they would later testify at trial. In the 1986 trial, none of the witnesses could identify Jones in court.

Jones conviction was overturned in 2017 when another judge found the lead investigator had falsely testified in the original trial about a key piece of video evidence, a recording of a witness interview that had been edited. The judge also ruled that Jones had been denied a fair trial because the all-white jury was racially prejudiced against Jones. An investigation by WBUR into Jones' conviction led to a juror testifying that two other jurors said they thought Jones was guilty because he was black.

Rudof, the defense attorney, called Judge Cosgrove's ruling "shocking and wrong," and that the decision "is based on testimony of a detective who three judges have now said intentionally lied at the first trial."

The ruling demonstrates "that it's fine for the police to pressure witnesses to make an ID as long as the police themselves think they're doing the right thing," he said.

The Plymouth County district attorney's office, which is prosecuting the case, issued a short statement repeating the facts of the case.

"Judge Cosgrove has issued a ruling denying the defendant’s motion [to suppress witness identification] and, as a result, the Commonwealth may now present those prior identifications in evidence at the re-trial of the defendant," the statement read.

Jones has been out on bail since 2017, pending a new trial. He declined to comment, saying he wanted his attorney to speak on his behalf. Jones is attending a conference in Atlanta being held by the Innocence Network, an organization that provides pro bono legal and investigative services to those seeking to overturn their convictions. The meeting includes 200 people wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit.

Jones' new trial for the 1985 murder is scheduled for May 20, in Brockton Superior Court.

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Bruce Gellerman Twitter Senior Reporter
Bruce Gellerman is an award-winning journalist and senior correspondent, frequently covering science, business, technology and the environment.

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