State News

Former death-row inmate set free

Posted May 2, 2008

— A man who spent 13 years on death row in North Carolina was released from prison Friday after prosecutors decided to drop the charges against him.

Levon "Bo" Jones was sentenced to death in 1993 for the slaying of Leamon Grady, a bootlegger who was robbed and shot in his home in 1987.

"I'm innocent, that's what I've got to say," Jones told reporters as he walked out of the Duplin County Jail Friday afternoon.

After meeting his grandson for the first time, he said he was "a little bit angry" about being on death row so long, but he just wanted to go home.

"It's wonderful that he's out. He's innocent, and I'm glad he's free," said his daughter, Evette Jones.

A federal judge overturned the conviction in 2006, declaring poor attorney performance had violated Jones' rights. Duplin County District Attorney Dewey Hudson planned to retry Jones on May 12, but decided to drop charges after a key witness recanted her story.

Lovely Lorden, Jones' former girlfriend, was the only witness accusing Jones of the murder, but she admitted in an affidavit filed last month that she “was certain that Bo did not have anything to do with Mr. Grady’s murder” and that she did not know what happened the night Grady was murdered.

Lorden said a detective had coached her before Jones' trial what to say about Jones and co-defendant Larry Lamb. She also said she collected $4,000 from the governor's office for giving key information in the case.

"Much of what I testified to was simply not true," Lorden said in the affidavit.

The affidavit also casts doubt on the conviction of Lamb, who is serving a life sentence for the murder. Another co-defendant, Ernest Matthews, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was released in 2001.

Hudson still believes Jones had a hand in Grady's death, he said, and he doesn't believe Lorden's story.

"Law enforcement and I believe that Levon Jones received a fair and just trial and that he was rightfully convicted," Hudson said.

Jones' attorney, Ernest Conner, said Jones was innocent and that Lorden has given several different stories and has recanted her testimony to other people.

“We never had any doubt about Bo Jones’ innocence,” Connor said in a statement. “We knew when we started the case that there were serious holes in the evidence. After we began seriously investigating the case, it completely unraveled.”

Another witness in the case and the lead investigators have since passed away, Hudson said, making it difficult for him to put the case before a new jury.

"The deal here is (that) I just do not have the evidence to retry him," he said. "I'm not convinced he's innocent, and they're not convinced he's guilty."

Jones is the second inmate in the past month to walk away from North Carolina's death row.

Glen Edward Chapman was released from Central Prison in Raleigh on April 2 after spending 14 years under a death sentence.

Catawba County prosecutor Jay Gaither decided not to retry that case after a judge granted Chapman a new trial. The judge ruled Chapman got ineffective assistance from his original attorneys and that evidence was lost, destroyed or withheld.

In Jones' case, "This case highlights the serious and rampant flaws inherent in the death penalty,” Cassandra Stubbs, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing Jones, said in a statement. “A system that can't protect the innocent from conviction shouldn't gamble with life and death."

The most recent execution in North Carolina took place in August 2006, and a tangle of legal and court issues has since halted executions since then. Among the issues are questions about a doctor's role, or lack thereof, during a lethal injection.

16 Comments

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  • TexasKate May 2, 2008

    Miss Lovely Lorden will have to explain her false witness to a higher authority than the State of North Carolina.

  • alwayslovingu30 May 2, 2008

    Charge the attorney/Judge/district attorney/ put them in jail for 13 years or hang em high enough we can all se real justice instead of themdropping thru the cracks like they always seem to do.Hiding is their best defence for cheap lying snakes in the grass once again crooked lying politicians Iknow an officer just like them they will get theirs soon

  • Slip Kid May 2, 2008

    I'm for the death penalty for heinous crimes. However, if someone is convicted, they should not be SENTENCED to death if conviction is based primarily from eyewitness testimony.

    Anyway, as our technology and methods of investigation improve, so should our standards for convictions and sentences.

  • Meandmytwo May 2, 2008

    Richard2***** I totally agree with you. Now there should be some justice for the lies the women told and the cop. They really should make her pay that money to this guy and the others. Shame on her and the cop. You reap waht you sowe.

  • fl2nc2ca2md2nc May 2, 2008

    Thank you patriotsrevenge, I hate the amount of bloodthirsty posts there are sometimes...

    I used to support the death penalty. But there are way too many cases where folks on death row are later found to be innocent. I can't support it as long as there is a chance that any innocent person could be put to death.

  • Lexus-1 May 2, 2008

    This is absolutely sad. Just think of the many individuals in jail because of a lie either the witness, detectives, judges, and lawyers wanting to make a name as the top dog attorney. I blame starting at the TOP with the governors. Mike Easley is the worse governor NC has ever had. I have NO faith in our judicial system AT ALL.

  • richard2 May 2, 2008

    Charge her with lying and charge the cop for telling her what to say.

  • Dr. Dataclerk May 2, 2008

    The attorney that defended this man should spend time in prison also.

  • Dr. Dataclerk May 2, 2008

    Another innocence man released from death roll prison. Praise God. Now the person that lied should spend equal amount of time in prison and should have to pay the money back.

  • penny for your thoughts May 2, 2008

    2alegal - there is definately something fishy here! They are not releasing him because he's innocent. It's becuase they're having trouble with a shaky witness. They need to keep him in jail (off death row) and strengthen their case!

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