On July 2, 2001, Willie Hayward and Terron Savoy were shot in the courtyard of an apartment complex in Brooklyn, New York. Hayward, a member of the Bloods street gang and a drug dealer, was killed. Savoy survived and three other men who were with him, including Sherrod Jones, were uninjured. All four men told police that a tall, thin man in a black hooded sweatshirt shot at them.
On July 5, police received an anonymous phone tip naming Lenny Parker, aka “Supreme” (a rival drug dealer of Hayward’s) and “AK” as the assailants. The call was later found to have come from Terron Savoy’s girlfriend, Robin Fludd.
On August 25, 2001, Savoy encountered Markquice Jones in the stairwell of the apartment complex where the original shooting took place. Savoy demanded that Markquice Jones tell him who had shot Savoy and killed Hayward; when Marquice denied knowing who the shooter was, Savoy fired shots at him. Uninjured, but fearing for his life, Jones called his uncle, Lonnie Jones, and asked to be picked up and taken to Lonnie’s apartment in the Bronx. When Lonnie Jones arrived, he ran into Robin Fludd, and asked why Savoy was shooting at his nephew. Fludd responded that if his nephew didn’t name the shooter, Jones and his family would be sorry. Following the argument, and almost two months after the shooting, Fludd told police that she saw Lonnie and Markquice Jones kill Hayward, in contradiction to her July 5th anonymous phone tip.
On September 7, police arrested Lonnie Jones, a short, stocky boiler repairman, in his apartment in the Bronx. Later that day Fludd identified Lonnie Jones in a lineup, and told police that he had threatened her with a gun.
At trial, Fludd’s testimony was the primary evidence against Jones. She claimed to have seen Lonnie Jones and his nephew, Markquice Jones, shoot at the group while she was standing on her ninth floor balcony, and said that she had picked both men out of a police lineup. Jones’s wife, daughter and two of his daughter’s friends all testified that Jones was home the night of the shooting.
During deliberations, the jury sent several notes to the court asking why Markquice Jones was not on trial. The prosecutor admitted to the judge that only Lonnie Jones was in the lineup; but despite the fact and that the prosecutor had not corrected Fludd when she falsely testified that she had identified both men, the judge did not inform the jury of this falsehood by Fludd. On November 9, 2002, the jury convicted Lonnie Jones of second-degree murder, first-degree assault and third-degree intimidating a witness. He was sentenced to 37 years to life in prison.
With assistance from a Legal Aid attorney, Jones secured pro bono representation from the prestigious law firm Davis Polk & Wardell. Jones’s new attorneys interviewed Sherrod Jones (no relation), who stated that the person he saw kill Hayward was not Lonnie Jones, whom he knew because they grew up in the same neighborhood. Defense investigators also located three women who said Fludd could not have witnessed the shootings from her balcony as she was out having dinner with them at a restaurant when the crime occurred.
On July 18, 2006, the Supreme Court of New York remanded Jones’s case for a new trial. On January 30, 2007, after Fludd’s credibility was demolished by the defense witnesses, a jury acquitted Jones of all charges and he was released. He had spent 5½ years in prison, most of it in protective custody because of a $20,000 contract that Hayward’s gang had put on his life. After his release, Jones immediately left the state for his own safety. In 2009, the New York Court of Claims ordered the state to pay Jones $1.8 million in compensation.
- Stephanie Denzel