State v. Joseph Jones

Justice System Reform
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Case Summary

Updated 06/04/2024

SCSJ is seeking relief for Joseph Jones, who was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 2000. Joseph was 13 years old when he was arrested with his 16-year-old uncle and his uncle’s 17-year-old girlfriend for the murder and rape of a 10-year-old girl. He was represented at trial by an attorney whose law license was suspended during the pendency of Joseph’s trial. At sentencing, the trial judge imposed a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

SCSJ, along with co-counsel Equal Justice Initiative, is seeking a new trial and sentence for Joseph through a Motion for Appropriate Relief in Alamance County, NC. SCSJ will also be seeking a gubernatorial commutation through the Juvenile Sentencing Review Board (JSRB), which Governor Roy Cooper established by Executive Order in 2021 to review the large number of cases in North Carolina involving children who were sentenced to extraordinarily long prison sentences.

Why it's Important

Joseph is one of the youngest people in the US ever sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. At the time of his original sentencing, the trial court had no sentencing discretion, so it could not consider Joseph’s youth and background when imposing a life sentence without parole. More recent decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court recognize the ever-growing body of research in developmental psychology and neuroscience, which confirms that adolescent brains are not yet fully mature when it comes to higher-order executive functions such as impulse control, planning ahead, and risk avoidance. Joseph Jones deserves to have a meaningful opportunity for release based on his demonstrated maturation and rehabilitation.

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Case Documents

Filed: 04/08/2021

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