Report: Mississippi man spent 8 months imprisoned over slaying despite video showing him miles away
A 29-year-old Gulfport, Miss., man who spent eight months in jail over a slaying that occurred while video evidence showed he was elsewhere has filed suit against the city of Hattiesburg, its police department and the detective who charged him, local station WLOX reported Thursday.
The city has been partially dismissed from the lawsuit, the news outlet reported, but the suit against the detective over allegations of false imprisonment, denial of a speedy trial and false arrest is set for a Nov. 15.
In July 2015, Arthur Jones was arrested in connection with the killing of 17-year-old Jabarri Goudy, who was shot in the parking lot of Club Memories in Hattiesburg. Video surveillance showed that Jones was more than 70 miles away, WLOX reported.
“I feel like I lost more than two years because, like I said, I have been dealing with this since I was 23,” Jones said in an interview with WLOX. “I’m 29 now, so it’s a lot longer than two years. I’m still dealing with this, in search of justice. My justice.”
A friend of Goudy’s who said he was at the crime scene when the teenager was killed met with police detective Neal Rockhold, who was assigned to the case. He identified a man from a six-person photo lineup, claiming that he was the one who shot the 17-year-old. However, he contradicted himself minutes later and said Jones was the one who shot his friend after seeing a photo of him, WLOX reported.
“Had they gone to the judge in this case, in AJ’s case, and said, ‘OK, judge, we have an eyewitness who says AJ did it … But judge, three minutes before he said AJ did it, he identified another man.’ Then the judge would say, ‘I’m sorry. I’m not binding this fellow over to the grand jury. Go back and do some more investigation; AJ stays out of jail.’ That’s what should have happened, but in that affidavit, as the court laid out in its opinion, they omitted the truth,” Jones’s attorney Tim Holleman, according to WLOX.
Jones said he “expected to immediately be released because I knew I had evidence, surveillance, of me being in Gulfport at the time of the murder but, unfortunately that is not what transpired.”
Rockhold reportedly told Jones that his cellphone had pinged a tower in Hattiesburg the night of the shooting, but later admitted this was a lie.
Jones was charged with first-degree murder in 2015, and, despite the actual assailants being charged that November, the charge against Jones was not formally dropped until Oct. 10, 2017.
Clark Hicks, an attorney representing the city, told The Hill: “We’re pleased that the city of Hattiesburg was dismissed from the federal claims in the lawsuit. Detective Rockhold had a difficult case with witnesses who gave sworn testimony identifying Mr. Jones as the perpetrator of the crime. The detective relied on the advice of the Forrest County District Attorney’s office.”
“Fortunately, the actual perpetrator of the crime was ultimately identified and convicted for the crime. We are confident that Detective Rockhold will be vindicated at the trial. Qualified immunity protects officers for these circumstances when they are presented with conflicting testimony and act in good faith in the furtherance of their duties,” he added.
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