Man freed after 32 years in prison, only to face murder charge again, is acquitted
A man whose murder conviction was overturned after he spent 32 years in prison was acquitted in a swift retrial Tuesday.
After a little more than two hours of deliberation, jurors found Darrell Jones not guilty of the murder of Guillermo Rodriguez, who was shot and killed outside Pete & Mary’s bar in Brockton in 1985.
Jones, who always maintained his innocence and turned down a plea deal that would have guaranteed his freedom, said he felt “great” about the verdict, but that the injustices of his case still weighed on him.
“I’m not really celebratory because they took my life and they knew what they did. And they did it intentionally,” Jones said in a phone interview. “I lost my grandma when I was in there, my only brother, my son. So my family isn’t here to celebrate.”
In a statement, Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said that a video recording of a witness identifying Jones as the shooter was suppressed. Prosecutors were also not allowed to introduce prior testimony from a Brockton police officer, who identified Jones as the shooter in the 1980s and has since died, Cruz said.
“We respect the jury’s decision, but with the passage of three decades, the deaths of necessary witnesses and exclusion of some of the prior evidence that was used at the 1986 trial, this was an incredibly difficult case to retry,” he said.
Lawyers for Jones said the recording had been deemed inadmissable because it had been altered by police, and that a deleted portion was likely exculpatory.
Paul Rudof, one of Jones’s attorneys, said the verdict was a great relief.
“I knew that Darrell was innocent, and it seemed so painfully obvious,” he said. “But until I heard it — you never know.”
Jones, 52, was 19 when he was arrested. During his first trial in 1986, prosecutors presented testimony from Lisa Marie Pina, who was 22 and in a car outside Pete & Mary’s bar when Rodriguez was shot.
She told jurors she heard someone in the car blame “That damned Diamond,” Jones’s nickname.
Last month, Pina said she no longer remembered that comment. She did remember a Brockton detective asking her to identify the shooter from an array of photos.
“ ‘Pick a picture, pick a picture,’ ” Pina said, according to testimony read in court. “So I picked a picture and it happened to be Diamond’s picture.”
In 2017, Superior Court Judge Thomas F. McGuire Jr. ruled that Jones did not receive a fair trial because detectives tampered with the video recording, his lawyer was ineffective, and jurors made comments that he must be guilty because he is black.
Two years later, prosecutors pursued a murder charge against Jones again.
“The evidence you’ll hear at this trial is as simple as this: People who knew the defendant, who were familiar with him, saw what he did,” Assistant District Attorney Jessica Kenny said in opening statements last week. “Even people who did not know him saw what he did.”
Some of the witnesses have died in the years since he was arrested, and others claimed they no longer remembered the details of the night Rodriguez died.
Plymouth Superior Court Judge C.J. Moriarty allowed prosecutors to use transcripts from the 1986 trial — transcripts that employees from the district attorney’s office read to jurors in stilted, stiff voices.
In his opening statement Friday, Rudof focused on whether jurors should rely on the decades-old testimony. Though none of the witnesses said they got a good look at the person who shot Rodriguez, they all said the shooter was noticeably shorter than Rodriguez, who was 6 foot 1 inch. Jones is only one inch shorter.
Witnesses also said they saw Rodriguez’s killer run to another bar, where investigators later found a gun. Police found Jones inside Pete & Mary’s bar, where he had been before Rodriguez was shot.
Jones said he wants to help others who were wrongfully convicted, and make more people aware of the power prosecutors hold in the criminal justice system.
“I am going to do what I’ve been doing – I did it in prison, I’ll do it out here,” Jones said. “I am going to wake Massachusetts up – try to wake them up — to the fact that this is done in their name, that they have a responsibility.”