New York’s top court has ordered a new hearing for a man convicted of rape and murder in Manhattan in 1980, citing potential DNA evidence.
In a 6-0 ruling, the Court of Appeals said a midlevel court “abused its discretion” by not allowing Clifford Jones a chance to present new evidence that could clear him. The decision means Jones will be allowed to present the evidence at a trial court.
Jones was convicted of raping a woman and then killing a man who confronted him as he allegedly fled the scene of the rape.
He’s actually no longer in prison -- earning parole in 2010. But he’s trying to clear his conviction and maintains that recent DNA testing on hairs recovered from a baseball cap the perpetrator left at the scene and fingernail scrapings by the victim as evidence of his innocence. According to Court of Appeals documents, the genetic profile of two hairs on the cap excluded Jones as the source and the third was inconclusive. The fingernail scrapings also excluded Jones.
The midlevel Appellate Division had denied Jones’ request for a new hearing, saying the rape victim’s “lineup and in-court identifications of the defendant were unusually strong and reliable.” That court determined that the DNA evidence wouldn’t necessarily have resulted in an acquittal.
But the state’s top court sharply disagreed.
“There is significant DNA evidence favorable to the defendant and [prosecutors] proffer no admissible evidence in opposition to that evidence, defendant is, at the very least, entitled to a hearing on his motion,” Judge Eugene Pigott Jr. wrote for the court.