A Louisiana man has had his life sentence and conviction overturned after a judge found him to have served 46 years in jail for a crime he didn't commit.
WATCH THE MAN LEAVING PRISON AFTER 46 YEARS BELOW:
Wilbert Jones, now 65, was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and raping a nurse in 1971 but has now been freed after the judge found the case against him was "weak at best".
State District Judge Richard Anderson ruled that officials withheld evidence that could have absolved Wilbert from blame for the crimes decades ago.
Jones was in tears as he left the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, thanking his loyal family and embracing his legal team at the Innocence Project New Orleans.
Emily Maw, Jones' lawyer, praised his "extraordinary strength" as a man "who has spent over 16,000 days in prison for something he didn't do," and yet has "come out with a faith in God and in humanity".
Meanwhile, his niece Wajeedah Jones said that the family are already planning to celebrate with a meal, saying, "We will have the gumbo ready for him when he gets out."
Jones had been arrested on suspicion of abducting a nurse at gunpoint and raping her behind a building on Oct. 2 1971. Convicted of aggravated rape at a 1974 retrial, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
According to Judge Anderson, the state's case against Jones "rested entirely" on the testimony of the nurse and her "questionable" identification of Jones as her attacker.
The nurse had picked Jones out of a police line-up over three months after the crime, but there were discrepancies between him and the characteristics she said the man who raped her had.
Jones' lawyers said that the nurse's description matched a man who was arrested but never charged for a similar rape just 27 days after she was attacked. The man was later charged and convicted for armed robbery.
Anderson ruled that the police knew of the similarities between that man and the nurse's description of her attacker but prosecutors failed to provide this information to Jones' defence.
Prosecutors denied that authorities withheld any relevant evidence that would have aided Jones' case.
"The state was not obligated to document for the defence every rape or abduction that occurred in Baton Rouge from 1971 to 1974," prosecutors wrote in February.
Prosecutors do not intend to retry Jones but have instead said they will ask Louisiana's Supreme Court to review Judge Anderson's decision.
Maw told the Associated Press that it would be "legally incorrect and morally problematic" for attorneys to try to uphold Jones' conviction, saying that it would mean "when Wilbert Jones was arrested in 1972 as a young, 19-year-old poor black man, he did not deserve the rights that people deserve today".
While there are sadly lots of people wrongfully imprisoned, it's always good to hear when one has been freed. We hope you enjoy your gumbo, Wilbert.
Featured Image Credit: PA