Convicted of 1981 Roxbury Murder Mark Jones Sues for Information He Says Proves His Innocence
BOSTON/South Boston - Mark Jones is still claiming his innocence for his part in the Roxbury shooting death of Brian Cropper in 1981 when he was aged just 19 years old.
Jones has filed a lawsuit seeking the release of information that he believes could exonerate him and also is claiming that he received poor legal representation in his case.
Incarcerated at Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Shirley, the complaint dated July 12, 2013 was filed at the US District Court in Boston.
It alleges that, “More than 30 years later, the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office continues to withhold substantial exculpatory evidence from Jones to conceal the fact that [they] convicted an innocent poor black youth, who was economically and socially disadvantaged, with subpar legal representation.”
It is claimed that Mark Jones was walking with his friend, Frank Webb, towards the Dudley Square area of Roxbury, when the young men got into a fight with the victim, Brian Cropper, over some neck chains belonging to Jones.
The complaint alleges that immediately following the fight, Cropper chased after Jones and Webb with a machete when he was shot to death by Webb.
They both fled the scene, but turned themselves in several days later after which Jones was charged as an adult for murder, and Webb, then 16, was charged as a juvenile also for murder.
To defend his case, Jones’ family hired then attorney John McBride, who was since disbarred in June, 2007 according to the State’s Board of Bar Overseers.
The complaint alleges that, McBride, a defendant in Jones’ lawsuit, “exhibited little interest in defending Jones' case,” that he failed to provide his client with a copy of his case files, and that he failed to investigate the case.
It claims, “McBride put on no discern[i]ble defense other than a lukewarm cross-examination of the Commonw[e]alth's wi[tn]esses."
Jones was found guilty of second-degree murder after a two and a half day trial, and given a life sentence, which the complaint claims has resulted in Jones serving, “nearly 30 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.”
Webb was tried in Boston Juvenile Court and it was adjudicated that he was responsible for the murder of Cropper in the second degree, and he was committed to the Dept. of Youth Services.
Also a defendant in the lawsuit, former Assistant District Attorney for Suffolk County, Robert Schilling allegedly didn't provide McBride with any investigative reports, witness statements, and other evidence.
Schilling tried Jones in a manner, “as though Jones was the person responsible for the murder of Cropper, while leaving out the crucial fact [that] Webb had already been adjudicated as the shooter responsible ...” the complaint alleges.
In December 1983, a new defense attorney, Judd Carhart, now an appeals court judge, filed a motion for a new trial based on Webb's admitting to the shooting of Cropper, and exonerating Jones of the murder.
However, on May 24, 1985, Webb backed out of testifying allegedly because Schilling threatened Webb with additional prosecution if he did so.
It’s alleged that defendant Schilling knowingly and willfully withheld this exculpatory evidence from Jones prior to, during, and after trial for the past 30 years.
Since July, 2011 Jones has been seeking records held by the Boston Police Department (BPD) relating to his case.
Following multiple requests, unanswered appeals to the Secretary of State, and a failed motion filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the complaint claims that the BPD has only released some of the documents Jones is seeking.
Included in those redacted documents are details it is claimed that the police interviewed key eyewitnesses that said Cropper chased after Jones and Webb with a machete, and that Webb was identified as the shooter.
None of the investigative information in these documents was ever released to Jones the complaint claims.
Jones has written to the Innocence Project and other organizations seeking help to overturn his conviction, but they declined to assist him without documented proof of his innocence.
In March and April this year, Jones wrote to Judge Carhart, disbarred attorney McBride, and ADA for Suffolk County, Zachary Hillman, requesting copies of his case file, but none of them complied the complaint claims.
Also in April, Jones resubmitted his request for records with the BPD, and following their delayed response, filed an appeal with the Secretary of State. The complaint doesn’t indicate the State’s response to his appeal, but the BPD responded with an indication that any further release of files would also be redacted.
Jones is seeking the release of each file in his case, un-redacted, and declaratory judgments against the defendants for violating federal and state laws regarding the evidence discovery process and freedom of information.
The defendants named in the case are the Suffolk County District Attorney, the Boston Police Department, ADA Zachary Hillman, former ADA Matthew McGrath, disbarred attorney John McBride, Appeals Court Judge Judd Carhart, and former ADA Robert Schilling.
The defendants did not lodge an answer to the complaint by the filing of this report. The case will be heard by Judge Richard Stearns.
This article was produced for Open Media Boston's Open Court Project.