Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Troy Lee Jones

Other Death Penalty Exonerations with Inadequate Legal Defense
On the morning of December 23, 1981, the body of 23-year-old 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, 30-year-old 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 a preliminary hearing, Jones’s brother, Marlow, testified Grayson told him that Troy killed Benner. Over defense objection, Marlow testified that in July 1981, Grayson “told me that she knocked on the door [to Janet Benner's apartment], and some lady come to the door and answered it, and Troy come in, and [Grayson] stepped aside, and he grabbed the woman and strangl[ed] her and she-she got to hollering 'Help me .... Carolyn, help me. Carolyn, help me.' "
In 1982, Jones went to trial in Merced County Superior Court. 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 failed to investigate claims that another person had admitted to the crime. He allowed the prosecution to introduce prejudicial evidence regarding Jones’s previous criminal history.  He also did not object to the introduction of two guns in evidence even though the weapons had no apparent connection to the crime.

The defense attorney also elicited testimony that implicated Jones. During direct examination, Grayson’s daughter said she didn’t know who killed Benner, but when she was cross-examined by the defense attorney, she said Jones was responsible.

The prosecution was allowed to present Marlow Jones’s testimony from the preliminary hearing after the prosecution said that Marlow could not be located.

Jones was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
Jones appealed and in June 1996, the California Supreme Court overturned his conviction. The court ruled that his defense attorney’s performance was incompetent and denied him the opportunity to present a meaningful defense. The case was remanded for retrial.

During a re-investigation of the case, the daughter recanted her trial testimony and told Jones's defense attorney, Charles Bonneau, that she had been coerced by police and that her testimony was false.

In addition, Micki Courtney, a private investigator, interviewed Marlow Jones, who was in prison. He admitted that he killed Grayson.

In June, 1996, the prosecution dismissed the charges and Jones was subsequently released.
 – Alexandra Gross

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 10/23/2018
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1981
Age at the date of reported crime:30
Contributing Factors:Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No