Wilbert Jones, who has been imprisoned for 45 years on a rape conviction that a Baton Rouge state judge recently threw out, could learn Tuesday if the judge will release him or set a modest bail while prosecutors appeal the tossed conviction.
District Judge Richard Anderson ruled Oct. 31 that the state withheld "highly favorable" evidence from the defense, evidence the judge said probably would have led to a different outcome at Jones' 1974 trial. He was found guilty of aggravated rape and sentenced to life in prison.
Jones' attorneys at Innocence Project New Orleans responded a week later by filing a motion asking Anderson to either order Jones' immediate and unconditional release from the Louisiana State Penitentiary or allow him to post a nominal bail.
The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office has notified the judge of its intention to ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to review his ruling.
Anderson has scheduled a hearing Tuesday morning on the motion filed by Jones' lawyers. The District Attorney's Office filed papers Thursday asking the judge to deny the motion and to stay his ruling pending the Supreme Court's review of the matter.
Jones, 64, of Baton Rouge, was found guilty in 1974 of kidnapping a young Baton Rouge General Medical Center nurse from the hospital parking lot at gunpoint and raping her Oct. 2, 1971. She died in 2008.
Twenty-seven days after that attack, a young woman who was visiting Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center was abducted from that hospital's parking lot at gunpoint and raped.
Arnold Ray O'Conner's fingerprints were found on the Our Lady of the Lake victim's car, but he was never charged despite being arrested. O'Conner, 63, also of Baton Rouge, was convicted, however, of armed robbery in a September 1973 home invasion rape near Baton Rouge General.
Wilbert Jones has spent more than 45 years behind bars for a rape the Baton Rouge man and his attorneys contend he didn't commit, but the man …
Anderson ruled the state was legally obligated to turn over information about the Oct. 29, 1971, incident at Our Lady of the Lake to the Jones' trial attorneys but failed to do so.
The judge said there were a "plethora of similarities" between the Baton Rouge General rape victim's description of her attacker and O'Conner's characteristics.
"Nevertheless, the State failed to provide this information to the defense," he wrote.
Anderson also said there were "striking similarities" between the two October 1971 rapes.
A jury may not have convicted Wilbert Jones of abducting and raping a nurse in 1971 if it had heard that several weeks later, a "strikingly si…
The judge described the state's case against Jones as "weak, at best" and said it rested entirely on the victim's testimony and "questionable identification" of Jones.
Innocence Project New Orleans Director Emily Maw, one of Jones' attorneys, said Jones described Anderson's ruling as "a miracle."