UPDATE (2016): Tyrone Jones was paroled and walked out of prison on September 1, 2016. Although his conviction remains part of his record, Ty is home with his family and trying to learn the ways of a world wholly foreign to him. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project will continue to fight for Ty’s innocence, and will prepare a Pardon application for him with the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons.
UPDATE: (March 2015) After presenting the evidence that Tyrone was not the shooter, that the weapon believed to have been the murder weapon found the night of the murder could not fire any bullets, and that other information had been withheld from Tryone before trial, the PCRA Court denied Tyrone’s petition as “untimely,” even saying that “the internet has been around for 20 years,” implying that he should have been able to find all of the witnesses from his jail cell (where there is no internet access.) The case is currently on appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
CASE: Tyrone Jones has been in prison since May 1973, for a murder that, based on the following facts alleged in his post-conviction petition, was committed by someone else. That May, when Tyrone was 16 years old, he was arrested for the murder of Henry Harrison, known as “Country”. Harrison was shot at around 8:40 p.m. in North Philadelphia in a gang-related execution, in front of numerous witnesses. A flash description went out over police radio indicating that there were two perpetrators, one of whom was wearing a red skull cap. Although police estimate that between 30 and 60 people were on the scene when they arrived, none of the witnesses were ever named. Tyrone was arrested shortly after the murder outside his home, about 9 blocks from the crime, because he was wearing a red skull cap even though the described shooter was half a foot taller than he. When Tyrone was arrested, he had a .25 caliber firearm in his back waistband.
Tyrone was interrogated by police about the murder shortly after his arrest. In response to their questioning, Tyrone told the detectives he “shot at the boy about four times” using the same gun police took from him when he was arrested. Tellingly, although police believed Tyrone knew the victim, the names Henry Harrison or Country never appear in Tyrone’s statements; the victim is referred to only as “the boy.” According to police, Tyrone said he was with his friend Michael Long when he shot “the boy.” Police then interrogated Long, who gave a similar statement, confirming that Tyrone used a .25 caliber gun. About 12 hours after Tyrone was first interrogated, while he remained in police custody, police received autopsy results. According to the autopsy findings, Harrison was killed with a .22 caliber bullet, which could not have been fired by Tyrone’s.25 caliber weapon. Police re-interrogated Tyrone. This time, Tyrone said that Long also had a gun, a “back bored out starter pistol.” When Long was questioned again, he said that he had a .22 caliber gun and that he also shot at “the boy”.
No eyewitness ever identified either Tyrone or Long as a perpetrator. The person who was with Harrison when he was shot died before trial. The police conducted no further investigation after taking statements from Tyrone and Long. They apparently never went back to any of the 30-60 eyewitnesses to the killing to verify what Tyrone or Long had said. They never even went back to the neighborhood or told the victim’s family they had a suspect. Jones was convicted and sentenced to life based solely on his own statements, which did not match the facts of the crime. (Charges against Long were eventually dismissed as the trial court ruled that the Commonwealth could not use his statements against him at trial due to the failure of police to abide by constitutional protections.)
Pennsylvania Innocence Project staff members found and spoke with four eye-witnesses to Harrison’s murder who remember particular details from that night. All four state without hesitation that they did not see Tyrone Jones anywhere in the area during the crime.
In May 2011, the Project filed a PCRA Petition on behalf of Mr. Jones, and in August 2011, we filed an amended petition. On this case, we are lucky to be joined as co-counsel by Cozen O’Connor partner Hayes Hunt and several Cozen associates. Mr. Jones’s petition has not yet been assigned to a judge.