Up in Lakeport, California, a 71 year old man named Luther Jones Jr. is expected to be released from state prison within the next few weeks because it has come to light that the key testimony used to convict him was fabricated. Jones was sent to prison 18 years ago for a 27-year sentence, for allegedly molesting a 10-year-old girl who belonged to his ex-girlfriend. He had a criminal record of felonies and theft cases, and the physical evidence had shown signs of sexual trauma on the child.
In this bizarre case, the child victim, now 30, has come forward to say that Jones never molested her. Evidently the child had been told to lie by her mother. She was indeed molested back in 1998, but by her mother’s then-boyfriend. District Attorney Don Anderson said he will file a writ of habeas corpus this week. He even canceled his vacation plans to begin the process of freeing Jones.
Currently, Jones is in very poor health but was previously denied for medical parole. He has filed several lawsuits complaining about the inadequate healthcare he has received from prison officials, which include diabetes, issues with his liver and kidneys, hepatitis C, and spinal deterioration. It is unknown whether legal action may be brought against the victim’s mother for her terrible behavior 18 years ago.
California Writ of Habeas Corpus
“Habeas corpus” literally means “you have the body,” and is a constitutional right. In the U.S. criminal justice system, a writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner or other detainee before a court to determine whether the imprisonment is unlawful. It is filed as a civil action (lawsuit) against the State agent (usually a warden) who is currently holding the defendant in custody when one has a showing that s/he has been wrongfully imprisoned. Today, the writ is mostly used for prisoners who want to challenge their detention if something went wrong in his/her trial (ie. prosecutor misconduct). It may also be used to examine a bail amount, the conditions of imprisonment, and jurisdiction of a specific court.
In California, the right to file a writ of habeas corpus petition is guaranteed by the California constitution, if you fulfill these legal requirements:
- You are actually in custody (including out on parole/bail);
- You have exhausted all your legal remedies, meaning you have tried everything to free yourself (ie. appeals);
- Your issue is not already resolved on appeal.