UPDATE (Sept. 9): Dwight Jones was released Thursday after more than 20 years in prison. He spoke with 17 News about being a free man once again.
“It’s crazy how they could be so wrong about you, but portray it like they’re so right,” Jones said.
“And they put out a false perception to the public, and have everybody thinking one way when it’s really not the truth, and you know, it’s unfair. But it is what it is, the past is behind me. Now I’m trying to get on to my next chapter and live my life to the fullest.”
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — In 2000, the likelihood of Dwight Jones taking a step outside the confines of prison appeared slim.
Jones received life without parole after a jury convicted him of two counts of murder in a drive-by shooting at Casa Loma Park. He has spent the past 21 years — roughly half his life — incarcerated.
But while he languished behind bars, others began looking into his case.
The Loyola Project for the Innocent spearheaded the re-examination. They filed documents arguing new evidence indicated Jones was not the shooter.
With new witnesses coming forward and others who testified at trial changing their statements, prosecutors had a choice to make: Retry the case or request resentencing.
They chose the latter.
“Doing a trial 22 years after the fact was going to be problematic,” said Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel.
On Thursday, Jones, 41, was resentenced to time served after pleading no contest to two counts of voluntary manslaughter. He’s expected to be released within days.
The DA’s office still has confidence in the conviction, Kinzel said, but with the new evidence and the uncertainty of the outcome of another trial, the resentencing was requested.
“This was not a scenario where (Jones) was found factually innocent,” he said.
Staff attorneys at the Project for the Innocent could not immediately be reached Friday afternoon.
The shooting happened the evening of Aug. 6, 1999. A funeral had been held that morning for a slain associate of the Country Boy Crips, and a wake and barbecue was held afterward at Casa Loma Park with more than 200 people in attendance.
About 6:20 p.m., a Jeep Cherokee drove by the park and two shooters fired into the crowd, according to court documents. Aaron Alvin, Jr. and Francisco Carter were killed.
That night, officers arrested Jones and other alleged rival gang members in connection with the shooting.
Two of the men were acquitted at trial. A jury found Jones guilty of two counts of murder, four counts of attempted murder and conspiracy.