On the morning of December 23, 1981, the body of Carolyn Grayson was found in an alfalfa field near Los Banos, California. She had been shot six times in the chest.
Several months earlier, Grayson’s neighbor, an elderly woman named Janet Benner, had been robbed and murdered in her apartment. Prosecutors came to believe that Benner was killed by Grayson’s lover, Troy Lee Jones, and that Jones had later killed Grayson because he was afraid she would turn him over to the police. On January 15, 1982, Jones was arrested and charged with Grayson’s murder.
At trial in 1982, key witnesses for the prosecution included Grayson’s eight-year-old daughter, who said her mother had told her that Jones killed Benner, and a neighbor of Grayson’s who claimed to have witnessed Grayson and Jones arguing about Benner’s murder. Jones’s defense attorney proved utterly incompetent. He failed to investigate claims that another person had admitted to the crime and allowed the prosecution to introduce prejudicial evidence regarding Jones’s previous criminal history. He allowed two guns to be introduced as evidence even though they had no apparent connection to the crime. He even managed to elicit damaging testimony against his own client: during direct examination, Grayson’s daughter said she didn’t know who killed Benner, but when she was cross-examined by the defense she stated that Jones was responsible. Jones was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
On appeal, the California Supreme Court overturned Jones’s conviction because his defense attorney’s incompetent performance denied him the opportunity to present a meaningful defense. After the case was remanded for retrial in June, 1996, the prosecution dropped all charges, and Jones was released on November 15 of that year.
– Alexandra Gross