On Oct. 29, 1997, two St. Louis police officers, Vincent Carr and Bobby Lee Garrett, entered the home of Stephen Jones’ mother on Missouri Avenue, armed with a search warrant.
Carr reported that he seized a bag containing nearly three ounces of crack cocaine that he saw Jones drop on the kitchen floor.
On December 15, 1997, Jones, 23, was charged with possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. Louis. He went to trial in February 1998 before a jury. Carr testified that he saw Jones drop a plastic bag containing the cocaine, although there were no fingerprints on the bag.
Jones contended the drugs were not his and that the officers found them in a drawer in the bedroom and testified falsely to be able to bring the charge against him.
Jones was convicted on February 27, 1998 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In 2009, a federal investigation of St. Louis police narcotics officers resulted in the arrests of officers Carr, Garrett and Leo Liston, another officer who had partnered with Carr. All three were convicted and admitted they had planted evidence, lied about finding drugs and stole money from alleged drug dealers. Carr was sentenced to a year in prison, Garrett 28 months in prison and Liston three months in prison.
State and federal prosecutors dropped some pending cases and began reviewing hundreds of convictions that involved the officers’ testimony.
Following a review of Jones’s case, U.S. Attorney Richard G. Callahan petitioned U.S. District court Judge Carol E. Jackson to vacate the conviction and sentence because of Carr’s admission that he had planted drugs in some cases and testified falsely in others, calling into question his testimony in Jones’s case.
Judge Jackson granted the petition on November 10, 2010 and Jones was released that day. Judge Jackson granted Jones a certificate of innocence on June 23, 2011.
– Maurice Possley