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Grant Jones

Other Maryland Exonerations
Just after 9 p.m. on March 4, 1992, a 45-year-old woman known as A.A. reported that a man had tried to sexually assault her in an alley as she walked home after volunteering at a homeless shelter in Salisbury, Maryland.

A.A. said that the man ripped her shirt and scraped his nails across her bare chest, leaving four vertical scratch marks. She described her assailant as a Black man, approximately 30 years old, 5’9” tall, and weighing 225 pounds. A.A. said the man wore a gray shirt, blue jacket and pants, and a dark shirt. She said the man spoke lewdly to her about his desires.

On March 5, 34-year-old Grant Jones went to Salisbury Police Department to report that he had lost his wallet. Jones had recently moved out of the shelter and was living with his brother in Baltimore. Officer Sam Brown took Jones’s report. Brown also noticed that Jones was wearing a blue and yellow coat, gray sweater, and black pants, clothing that roughly matched the description of A.A.’s assailant, which Brown had heard on the police radio.

Brown took a photo of Jones, which was later included in a photo array shown to A.A. On March 17, she identified Jones as her assailant.

An arrest warrant was issued for Jones on March 17, and police arrested him in Baltimore on June 20, 1992, charging him with assault with intent to rape, attempted rape, fourth-degree sexual offense, assault, and battery.

Jones chose a bench trial, and his case was heard on April 19, 1993, in Wicomico County Circuit Court before Judge Alfred Truitt Jr. There was no physical or forensic evidence connecting Jones to the incident.

A.A. testified about the events of March 4. She identified Jones in court as her assailant. Under cross-examination, A.A. said she had never seen Jones at the shelter.

At the time of his arrest, Jones was 5’4” tall and about 150 pounds. His attorney, Seth Mitchell, questioned the officers involved in the investigation about whether Jones fit the physical description provided by A.A. They said no, with one officer referring to Jones as a “little guy.”

Officer Richard Blevins had created the photo array that A.A. viewed. He testified that he took the photo from Officer Brown and then pulled five other photographs that Blevins thought “were similar in nature and as far as physical descriptions.” Blevins said that he asked A.A. to look at the photos in the array and see whether she recognized anybody. He said she selected the photo of Jones.

Jones was wearing a blue and yellow jacket when he went to the police station to inquire about his wallet. During cross-examination, Mitchell asked Blevins whether A.A.’s description of the suspect’s jacket mentioned the color yellow. Blevins said it didn’t. Mitchell also asked Blevins if any other photo in the array showed a man wearing a jacket with any blue. “Actually no one is wearing a blue jacket,” Blevins said. “Your client is wearing a yellow jacket with blue striping, it would appear from the inside and from the outside.”

Blevins also acknowledged that some of the mugshot photos, although not the one of Jones, contained a height indicator.

Raymond Jones, Jones’s brother, testified that Jones began living with him and other family members in Baltimore on February 20, 1992, and was living there in early March 1992. Raymond Jones did not provide an alibi for the date of the alleged attack but said that Grant Jones had made plans to return to Salisbury in March as part of the planning for a joint birthday party for the two brothers. (Raymond’s birthday was February 4, and Grant’s was March 17.)

Grant Jones testified that he was 5’4” “on a good day” and weighed 147 pounds. He said he stayed at the shelter from October 1991 through the middle of February 1992.

In early March, he said, he visited the shelter to retrieve some of his belongings and also see if he could locate his wallet. He later went to the police station, where the officers said they could assist in the wallet search but also asked to take Jones’s photo.

“Yes, they asked me about a picture and I asked them, I said, ‘Well, that’s something new, isn’t it?’ And they said ‘yeah.’”

Later, Jones said, “I didn’t have any problems with it. I just know that he said it could help, help them locate me in case they found my wallet.”

Jones testified that he didn’t remember if he ever saw A.A. when she volunteered at the shelter, but he denied that he assaulted her and tried to rape her. “I’m not the man that attacked that lady,” he said.

During his closing argument, Mitchell said this was a case of mistaken identity. Jones didn’t fit A.A.’s description. He was too short and too skinny. In addition, Mitchell said, “It just seems very unusual for someone to have done something one night and the next morning go into the police wearing the same clothes, which is a somewhat general description, dark pants, dark shirt. But to wear the same thing and then report his wallet missing.”

Elizabeth Ireland, an assistant state’s attorney, said in her closing argument that A.A. had made a clear identification of Jones, and the discrepancies between her description of her assailant and Jones were simply due to the stress of the situation. “I think that’s perfectly understandable that when she had just been grabbed and accosted by that man, that certainly in her mind he seemed larger than he actually is, what his intent was,” Ireland said.

Judge Truitt convicted Jones on April 19, 1993, on four of the five counts, acquitting him of the sexual-offense charge. “There’s no doubt,” Judge Truitt said. “She’s fingered him and she’s credible and he was here. The assault took place. She had scratches. And the intent or his intent was shown by the language used as to what he intended to do.”

Jones received a sentence of seven years in prison and was released on parole after serving four years.

In 2005, David Veney was exonerated on charges of first-degree rape and burglary for an attack that was said to have occurred in 1996 in Salisbury. A.A. was also the reported victim in that case.

As part of his motion for a new trial, Veney introduced evidence from a doctor who treated A.A. on the night of that alleged assault and expressed doubts about whether the attack happened. A.A.’s injuries in that case also included scratch marks, and the treating physician said the wounds could have been self-inflicted.

In 2021, Veney filed a claim for state compensation. The Prosecution Integrity Unit (PIU) of the Wicomico County State’s Attorney’s Office, investigated his claim, reviewing court documents and interviewing the participants in the trial. Ireland, now retired, had also prosecuted Veney, and she told the PIU that the state dismissed his charges after learning that A.A., who had died in 2018, had a lengthy record of crimes involving dishonesty, which damaged her credibility as a witness.

In her discussions with the PIU, Ireland mentioned the Jones case. PIU investigators then contacted Jones. He said he had not appealed his conviction, concerned that a new trial could expose him to a longer prison sentence. The investigators also reviewed documents from Jones’s trial and compared them against the evidence and testimony used in the Veney trial.

Because Jones hadn’t filed an appeal, no transcript of his trial existed. Investigators located a floppy disk and worked with the System Source Computer Museum and the Bloop Museum, both in Hunt Valley, Maryland, to recover the data.

Because of damage to the disk, the information was only retrievable using an analog recovery process. Brendan Becker at the Bloop Museum was able to reconstruct the data into a digital form and read the file, which contained an encoded version of the court reporter's transcript. The data underwent several conversions to create a usable text transcript.

According to Patrick Gilbert, a senior assistant state’s attorney and the PIU supervisor, the transcript was critical in detailing the similarities between the two cases, giving investigators confidence in the innocence of Jones and Veney.

In a filing, the state said: “In both cases, [A.A.] claimed that she was grabbed on her neck from behind before her shirt was ripped open, and her chest scratched in a vertical fashion — an injury that both [the doctor] and Ms. Ireland indicate is exceedingly rare in this type of offense. In both cases, [A.A.] accused black men, and alleged them to have made racially-tinged comments during the assault. In both cases, [A.A.] used nearly identical language in identifying her assailant, an individual she could have already had occasion to see.”

In a motion to vacate Jones’s conviction and dismiss his charges filed on August 8, 2023, the state said, “These unusual and concerning similarities raised grave doubt as to the truthfulness of the accusations [A.A.] made in both cases.”

“Although [A.A.’s] pattern of false allegations could not have been known at the first instance of such an allegation at a time before the pattern had existed, the existence of a pattern of vanishingly rare, nearly identical, and highly unique allegations made by [A.A.] is now clear,” the state wrote. “This, combined with the evidence that [A.A.] fabricated the allegations she made against Mr. Veney, fatally undermines the credibility of her allegation against Mr. Jones.” (The state granted Veney’s compensation claim in May 2023.)

The Jones motion noted the collateral effects of his conviction, which went well beyond his four years in prison. “Mr. Jones told us that, after his release, he struggled to find work and to reintegrate into society, which led to additional contacts with law enforcement,” the motion said, adding that Jones had no arrests in the past 20 years. “Mr. Jones’s involvement with the criminal justice system appears to be animated by his struggles with alcohol, exacerbated by the challenge of reentry after being convicted of assault with intent to rape.”

Judge Karen Dean granted the state’s motions to vacate Jones’s conviction and dismiss his charges on August 31, 2023, agreeing that the flaws in Veney’s case applied to Jones as well.

“I didn’t think this day would ever come,” Jones said. “But it’s here. This is something you hold onto for years. A lot of years, you just don’t ever think you were going to get help. And then, all of the sudden, it’s just gone. It feels like someone took a big rock off my back.”

Veney was also present for the exoneration. “He is forever my uncle now,” Veney said. “We’re family, we’re linked. Later on, I’m going to connect with him, and enjoy some freedom together.”

In December 2023, Jones was awarded $436,000 in state compensation.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 9/6/2023
Last Updated: 12/13/2023
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:1992
Sentence:7 years
Age at the date of reported crime:34
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No