‘Snitch’ offers murder testimony

By SCOTT NORTH

Herald Writer

A former jailhouse "snitch" with a lengthy criminal record may be among the witnesses called to testify early next year against a former Bothell man who spent a decade in prison for killing his wife, a murder he insists he did not commit.

Jerry B. Jones Jr., 54, appeared briefly Tuesday in Snohomish County Superior Court .

The purpose of the hearing was for Judge Gerald Knight to formally reschedule Jones’ new trial on first-degree murder from mid-November to Jan. 16.

In 1989, Jones was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for the death of his wife, Lee Jones, 41. The woman was stabbed to death in the bathroom of the Joneses’ home.

Jones spent his time behind bars insisting that he’d been wrongly convicted and that his wife had been killed by an intruder, whom he believes was a neighborhood teen.

In 1999, U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour threw out the conviction and freed Jones, ruling that he’d received ineffective assistance of counsel because his attorney had failed to adequately investigate the intruder claim before trial.

Jones, who is free on bond, has since made repeated public statements about his innocence, including an appearance on a nationally televised talk show.

A former inmate with whom Jones served time in prison last year approached prosecutors offering to testify that Jones had confessed to him in 1995 that he killed his wife for cheating on him and his only regret was leaving too much evidence behind.

The man, 49, "claimed that he was annoyed to see Mr. Jones professing his innocence on television when Jones had confessed to him years earlier," Jones’ attorney, David Zuckerman of Seattle, said in court papers filed early this week.

That’s a claim Jones vehemently denies.

"Mr. Jones will present evidence at trial that he steadfastly maintained his innocence while in prison even when speaking with inmates he trusted," Zuckerman wrote.

Jones didn’t trust the potential witness because he had a reputation for being a "snitch" and had testified against others in criminal cases or worked as a police informant in Snohomish and Cowlitz counties, according to court papers.

Zuckerman filed the court documents because he wants to gather more evidence regarding the man and to interview people involved in those prosecutions.

Deputy prosecutor Ron Doersch said he has not yet decided whether the former inmate will testify at Jones’ trial.

"He’s on the witness list; the question is whether he will be called," he said.

Zuckerman said he’s looking forward to cross examining the man, who has spent much of his life behind bars and has convictions for robbery, kidnapping, burglary and theft. Some of those convictions were for crimes against the man’s mother or people who befriended him, Zuckerman said in court papers.

"What can you say about somebody who would kidnap and rob his own mother?" the lawyer asked.

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