Exonerated inmates struggle to receive compensation state says they’re owed

Published: May 15, 2023 at 10:02 PM CDT

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – Wilbert Jones spent nearly 50 years in prison for the kidnapping and rape of a nurse before he was exonerated. At his trial, authorities withheld evidence that could have exonerated him decades ago.

Jones’ accuser spent between 10 and 15 minutes looking at a lineup before identifying him. However, the victim noted that Jones’ voice sounded different, he was much shorter than her assailant, and that Jones didn’t have a gap between his front teeth. She later told investigating officers she wasn’t sure about the identification.

A Baton Rouge prosecutor still brought the case to court, and Jones was sent to prison. Court records show the prosecutor in Jones’ case frequently excluded black people from jury service under “an assumption that many of them might not possess the intelligence and education to sit on the case.”

Court records also show the now-deceased prosecutor had convictions frequently reversed because of his disregard for the laws of the state.

In 2015, a judge tossed Jones’ conviction, writing, “Prejudice played a concrete role in his case.”

Despite spending 46 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Jones says he’s not bitter.

“I’m not bitter. I prayed and God took it away from me,” Jones said.

Watch the segment here.