Jenner & Block

Wrongfully Accused Brothers Freed with Help from Jenner & Block

Jenner & Block Partner Terrance J. Truax and Associate Christopher M. O’Connor recently won the acquittal of two brothers, Michael and Demetrious Jones, who had been wrongly accused of a 2003 robbery and shooting in Evanston, Illinois.

“Fortunately, we were able to bring to light several inconsistencies in the government’s case,” said Mr. Truax shortly after Judge Marcia Orr acquitted both defendants after a three day bench trial.

The charges against the Firm’s pro bono clients had stemmed from a shooting in Evanston on July 31, 2003.  On that day, two individuals were in a garage when they were approached by two offenders who asked to purchase narcotics.  According to police reports, one of the two offenders ostensibly brandished a gun and demanded money.  One victim fled the garage, and was shot in the back and seriously wounded.  The other victim turned over his wallet to the offenders, who then fled with about $50.

After several months of investigation, three witnesses inconsistently identified the brothers as the assailants in police lineups, which were conducted by police despite the fact that Michael and Demetrious only visited Evanston on occasion to be with family and did not meet the very specific descriptions of the offenders given several months earlier.  Michael and Demetrious Jones were charged with four counts of armed robbery and one count of aggravated battery with a firearm.

In February of 2004, Jenner & Block was approached by a lawyer, who had originally helped move other members of the Jones family to Evanston from Chicago, to represent the two brothers.

Among other things, at the trial it was revealed that witnesses inconsistently identified the Jones brothers out of photo arrays and line ups, and that two of the witnesses even identified “line up fillers” as the offenders.  The State also called on an inmate from Cook County Department of Corrections who allegedly overheard one of the Firm’s clients confess to the crime.  However, at the trial, the inmate recanted most of his prior statements to police, which raised further questions about the accuracy of the government’s accusations.  The State offered no physical evidence and no evidence of motive.

At the close of the State's case, the trial judge granted a Jenner & Block motion for a directed verdict as to Demetrious Jones, finding that the State's evidence could not support a conviction.  Demetrious Jones, after spending 10 months in jail awaiting trial, was released from jail later that evening.

As part of the defense for Michael Jones, the Jenner & Block team had offered an alibi proving that on the day of the crime he appeared in court on Chicago’s south side and that his case was the 23rd case called that day.  Although no specific time could be established as to when Michael's case was called, the defense argued that it would have been impossible for him to have left court and traveled to the north side of the city to Evanston – where he did not live – to participate in a robbery and shooting.

At the close of evidence and following argument, the Judge also acquitted Michael Jones, relying heavily on the inconsistent descriptions of the offenders and the alibi defense.

In addition to Messrs. Truax and O'Connor, Summer Associate Elton Wong assisted on the case.  Associate Joseph F. Marinelli also investigated the case and interviewed witnesses prior to trial.