NORTH CAROLINA (USA). DEATH ROW INMATE WALKS FREE-129TH EXONERATION
May 2, 2008: The state of North Carolina dropped all charges against Levon Jones, and he was freed after spending 13 years on death row. U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle overturned Jones's conviction two years ago, but he was held in prison awaiting a possible retrial until prosecutors announced that they were dismissing all charges. Judge Boyle criticized Jones's defense attorneys for "constitutionally deficient" performance, noting their failure to research the history and credibility of Lovely Lorden, the prosecution's star witness. The judge noted, "Given the weakness of the prosecution's case and its heavy reliance on the testimony of Lovely Lorden, there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different."
In April, Jones's new defense team filed an affidavit in which Lorden said, "Much of what I testified to was simply not true." She also stated that a detective coached her on what to say. Additionally, she collected $4,000 from the governor's office for offering the clues that led to the arrest of Jones.
Jones's retrial was set to begin May 12th, 2008. Duplin County District Attorney Dewey Hudson decided to ask the judge in the case to drop all charges. Jones was originally convicted of robbing and shooting a bootlegger named Leamon Grady. Levon Jones is the 129th inmate to be exonerated and freed from death row since 1973. He is the 8th such inmate freed from North Carolina, and the 6th person in the country exonerated in the past 12 months. (Sources: The News and Observer, 02/05/2008)