Darryl Jones has spent five years of a life sentence in prison, but he’ll be a free man soon. Previously convicted of murder, his sentence has been overturned by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
The 2014 murder conviction of Baton Rouge, Louisiana resident Darryl Jones was overturned on January 30, 2018. The 46-year-old had been convicted along with two other men for the slaying of Gerald Wilkins.
Wilkins’ body was found in the Sorrento area of Ascension Parish, Louisiana in 2013. According to the authorities, Wilkins had been shot three times in the back of the head while urinating at the side of a sparsely populated road.
Court documents revealed that Wilkins didn’t see the gunfire coming. He was dressed in a white shirt and white shoes, which remained clean despite the muddy conditions. He was holding a crack pipe when he was killed.
Darryl Jones, Cecil Ray Beals, and Calvin Williams were all convicted of second-degree murder by a jury. The victim and the convicted men were all from Baton Rouge. Jones and Wilkins were reportedly childhood friends.
The prosecutors argued that Jones had orchestrated the murder of his friend. They placed direct responsibility for the crime onto Beals and Williams.
Circumstantial evidence placed Beals and Williams in Jones’ car with Wilkins on January 12, 2013. Surveillance video showed Beals and two other unidentified men at a gas station not far from the crime scene before the murder occurred.
The prosecution alleged that Jones was at home, directing his friends via cellphone to kill Wilkins.
Jones claimed he saw Wilkins several hours prior to the murder. He also called Wilkins a “troublemaker” but instructed his friends not to harm him.
An acquaintance claimed that Wilkins had used drugs in Jones’ home, robbed Jones, and purchased drugs using counterfeit money in the past.
The Defense Case for Darryl Jones
Defense attorneys pointed out gaps in the prosecution’s narrative during trial.
Jones’ lawyer, Jarrett Ambeau, contested the use of cellphone records against his client, claiming the allegations ignored whether calls had been answered and what was discussed over the phone.
Ambeau argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove Jones’ intent to kill. He said the prosecution couldn’t hold Jones accountable for the intentions of Beals and Williams.
Additionally, Jones’ girlfriend testified that he was with her when Wilkins was murdered.
The jury was unanimous in its decision to convict Beals and Williams. However, jurors were divided 10-2 to convict Jones, the minimum ratio allowed under state law for the specific charge.
Darryl Jones appealed to the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal. The conviction was upheld, but one judge dissented.
The Supreme Court of Louisiana considered the dissenting opinion in its decision. It said “based on the evidence presented, the jury could only speculate (Jones) was guilty” since “there was no evidence in the record showing that (Jones) directed Beals or Williams to commit murder.”
Now that Jones’ life sentence has been overturned, the prosecution is determining how to proceed. The prosecution has several days to request a rehearing, which could mean Jones remains in custody pending that decision. But otherwise, he must be released.