Supporters call for freedom for Maleek Jones in New Haven
A group of supporters and advocates gathered outside of a New Haven courthouse Monday to protest the continued incarceration of Maleek Jones. A federal judge vacated his conviction on murder charges earlier this month.
Jones spent almost 30 years in prison after he was found guilty of killing a man in New Haven in the early 1990s.
But he could soon be released. A judge ruled on Aug. 11 that Jones didn’t receive a fair trial. The state has 60 days from the ruling to decide whether to appeal the decision or retry the case. In the meantime, Jones remains in custody.
James Jeter, a former cellmate of Jones, organized Monday’s rally.
“To say the system failed I think is an understatement,” said Jeter, who is also co-founder of the group Full Citizens Coalition, which advocates on behalf of people who are incarcerated.
He said Jones should be released immediately.
“Over the span now of 31 years, the state has continuously upheld and continuously upheld it, and to uphold it another day, it just, you know, how much more? Like, every day hurts for this man at this point,” Jeter said.
Alex Taubes, a New Haven civil rights and criminal defense attorney, called it "atrocious" that Jones remains in prison.
“He's still wrongfully incarcerated, a man who was taken from his family and our community at age 19," Taubes said. "He's 50 years old today.”
A federal judge ruled that Jones’ lawyer at the murder trial was ineffective. The court also mistakenly excluded testimony from a witness who said he heard a man confess to carrying out the attack with someone other than Jones.
Taubes called on New Haven State’s Attorney John P. Doyle, Jr. to announce the decision not to retry Jones and to authorize his release from prison.
Doyle told Connecticut Public the Division of Criminal Justice is reviewing all legal options in light of the ruling, including whether the state will appeal the federal court’s decision.
Jeter and others who gathered on Monday wore shirts that read "Free Maleek," with a picture of a young Maleek Jones holding his then-newborn son. That photo was taken more than three decades ago.
“There's just a lot ... that has to happen within him, that he needs room for, to deal with the loss," Jeter said, referring to the time Jones has been imprisoned. "You don't really get to deal with the loss while you're fighting.”