Louisiana man released from prison after nearly 46 years behind bars

Image: Wilbert Jones's first meal of gumbo, the day after his release from prison.
Wilbert Jones's first meal of gumbo, the day of his release from prison.Innocence Project of New Orleans

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By Phil McCausland

After spending nearly 46 years in a Louisiana prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit, Wilbert Jones got his first taste of freedom on Wednesday — and it tasted a lot like gumbo.

Shortly after his release from prison on Wednesday, Jones, 65, shared his plans now that he was a free man.

“Some gumbo and some good potato salad and some good dessert,” said Jones, who was arrested at 19. “Enjoy my little life I have left and speak to young kids and tell them to go the right way and not this way.”

“This ain’t where it's at,” he added.

Jones was convicted of kidnapping and raping a nurse who was abducted from outside a Baton Rouge hospital in October 1971. In 1974, he was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Related: Louisiana Man to Be Freed After Judge Tosses 1971 Rape Case

His case was taken on by the Innocence Project New Orleans in 2003 and one of their investigators found that a serial rapist had committed a nearly identical crime only four weeks later. That crime wasn’t shared with Jones’s attorneys.

Wilbert Jones's first shopping trip, the day of his release from prison.Innocence Project of New Orleans

The nurse, who died in 2008, was also the only witness who testified against Jones. She identified him in a lineup three months after his arrest — but noted that Jones was shorter and had a different voice.

Because the information wasn’t shared and due to the inconsistencies in the nurse’s testimony, Judge Richard Anderson said the conviction shouldn’t stand and granted Jones a $2,000 bond. He was released on Wednesday and was met by his family, who has long fought for his freedom.

"It wasn't but a matter of time," said his brother Plem Jones. "I know that he was going to be free, one day. I just didn't know when."

Hillar Moore, district attorney of East Baton Rouge Parish, said his office would appeal the court’s decision to the Supreme Court.

“We are seeking appellate review,” Moore said. “We have the utmost respect for the court but respectfully disagree with the courts legal and factual conclusions.”