In January 2009, 24-year-old James Jamaal Jones was arrested following a drunken dispute with his girlfriend. On July 30, Jones pled no contest to a charge of disorderly conduct and was sentenced to six months in the Rock County, Wisconsin jail.
Two weeks later, on August 13, 2009, 23-year-old Joshua Pippenger, one of several inmates in Jones’ cell block, told authorities that Jones had beaten him in the cell. Jones contended that he saw Pippenger beat himself, but authorities did not believe him and he was charged with assault.
In March 2010, Jones went on trial before a judge who heard the case without a jury. Pippenger, who was in jail after pleading guilty to armed robbery, testified that Jones had beaten him.
On the day of the trial, Jones and another inmate, who was in the same cell block at the time of the alleged beating and who had been subpoenaed to testify, were transported together from the jail to court. On the way, the inmate, C.J. Hall, handed Jones four pages of a diary that Pippenger kept at the jail. Hall said another inmate had given them to him.
In the diary, Pippenger wrote that he had beaten himself while Jones was asleep so that he could get moved to a different cell and to get revenge on Jones for reporting to guards that Pippenger had been stealing from other inmates.
At his trial, Jones’s defense lawyer asked Pippenger if he ever kept a diary at the jail and when Pippenger denied it, the lawyer did not pursue the diary further.
Jones was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.
Cole Ruby, an attorney in Baraboo, Wisconsin, was appointed to handle Jones’s appeal. When he discovered the diary pages, he obtained copies of Pippenger’s jail file, which contained numerous letters and notes that Pippenger had written to jail authorities complaining of conditions and asking for cell transfers.
Ruby submitted the materials to a certified document examiner who studied the journal and compared the writing to the writings of Pippenger, Jones and Hall. The examiner concluded that Pippenger had written the journal.
Ruby took the examiner’s report to the Rock County District Attorney’s Office. The documents were sent to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory and the lab’s document examiner agreed that Pippenger had authored the diary entries.
On July 7, 2011, Jones was released from prison—one month before the completion of his two-year term. On October 21, the prosecution asked that the conviction be vacated and the case was dismissed.
Pippenger’s probation was revoked. He was charged with perjury, pled guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison.
-- Maurice Possley