Self-Determination Is The Highest Expression Of Democracy

Wrongfully imprisoned Leroy Jones to be released after 15 years - InPDUM

By: Matsemela Odom, InPDUM International Vice-President

Leroy Jones is an incarcerated African in the Nevada prison system.  According to the Prison Policy Initiative, Africans are eight percent of Nevada’s population but nearly 33 percent of its prisoners. Africans are locked up at a rate over four times that of whites.  Whites make up 54 percent of the state and 83 percent of the people arrested for crimes, but only 44 percent of people sent to prison.

Leroy has been imprisoned for the last 15 years for a crime that he did not commit.  Leroy was born in Vallejo, California and raised in Long Beach, California.  It is in Long Beach where he became a childhood friend of Dr. Matsemela Odom, the International Vice-President of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM).

Leroy is the fiance of an InPDUM member.  His fiancé formerly served as the secretary of the Africans Charge Genocide campaign.  Leroy and his fiancé are dedicated to family inside and outside of their household; their blended family has 4 children and one grandchild together.  At the time of his imprisonment, Leroy’s daughter was 9 years old and his son was 7 years old.  Leroy’s daughter will be 24 soon and his son is 22.  Leroy now has a 2 year-old grandson and he has co-parented with his fiancé who brought an 11 year-old son and a nine year-old daughter to their union. Leroy will be finally released from prison in October 2022 and will be getting married that month.

Despite his pending release, Leroy’s fight for justice is only beginning.  Leroy is a member of InPDUM at the George Jackson Level.  This is an appropriate level for Leroy because, just like Leroy, George Jackson came into political life following his unjust imprisonment for robbery.

Evidence that would’ve cleared Leroy has been disappeared

In 2007, Leroy was charged with three robberies.  In two of the three robberies Leroy was tried for, video evidence of the robberies was presented in court, but no facial match was made. In the third robbery, the prosecution originally proclaimed video evidence showed facial recognition. Knowing that the evidence would acquit him, Leroy wanted the evidence to be shown in court. 

Leroy notes, “It is very odd for the defendant to be fighting for evidence to be presented and the DA to be fighting against the evidence being presented.”

Even the presiding judge had demanded that the tape be shown in court.  Despite having the tape in custody, the prosecution argued that the tape was unable to be presented as evidence and shown in court.  Leroy was convicted solely on witness statements even though 42 percent of wrongful convictions based on misidentifications are cross-racial misidentifications, according to an Innocence Project study.

In addition to the video that was never presented,  there is also a lost witness statement.  In the preliminary hearing, a witness from one of the robberies originally said he had written two statements but Leroy’s attorneys have only ever received one of the statements.  It is likely that the witness wrote another statement the day he reviewed the photo lineup, but the first statement was never received.

Limited support from prison reform agencies

For 13 years, Leroy pleaded his case to a variety of prison reform agencies but was ignored.  The Rocky Mountain Innocence Project finally took-up Leroy’s case in August 2020.  The Rocky Mountain Innocence Project is part of the Innocence Network, a coalition of organizations in the United States, Canada, Britain, and Australia that defend the wrongfully-convicted.  

Innocence projects combat the system of mass imprisonment on a case-by-case basis.  Most of their successful cases involved misidentifications, largely DNA evidence.  Yet, InPDUM knows that this is merely a symptom of a larger problem, the parasitic colonial prison system.  Even in their own studies, the Innocence Project suggests that as many as ten percent of incarcerated people are guilty of their charges.  

In its Revolutionary National Democratic Program (RNDP), InPDUM recognizes “that the justice systems of North American and European domestic colonialism function as a tool of colonial domination of African people and demand[s] immediate transformation” which includes black community control of the judicial process, the immediate release of political prisoners, the end to the death penalty and reparations to incarcerated African people for the theift of their labor.

Chairman Omali Yeshitela has argued that law is simply the opinion of the ruling class. Ever since the beginning of Leroy’s case, the state has proven the willingness to ignore its own laws.  The Brady Rule (Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963)), requires that prosecutors disclose materially exculpatory evidence to the people they have charged with crimes.  The state has proven its willingness to simply disregard their own law.  The state intentionally and maliciously withheld teh video throughout the evidentiary hearing and the trial.  It was not until the judge demanded the video during the appeal that the DA said it was lost.

Leroy’s fight will continue after he is released

Leroy’s incarceration has exposed many other contradictions of the colonial prison system.Leroy has not been allowed to participate in programs that would take time off of his sentence.  In 2020, Leroy received an extremely low Nevada Risk Assessment Score which does not allow him to participate in prison reentry programs.  

“Had I known that was what the interview was about, I probably would have answered the questions a little differently,”  Leroy concluded. “Basically they are just warehousing me until it’s time for me to go.”

Leroy knows the fight for his own justice will continue well after he is released from prison in October.  Leroy has committed to organizing in defense of other incarcerated people.

“I want to be an advocate, once I get released, proving my innocence and helping those individuals who don’t have a voice.  Don’t know what that looks like but I definitely want to be involved in something like that,” Leroy recently stated.

InPDUM demands Leroy’s conviction to be overturned, reparations to Leroy and his family

InPDUM knows that Africans will not be free until power is placed into our hands, our domestic military forces known as police removed from our communities and the black community has the power to determine what its own security and justice looks like. 

The Uhuru Movement has had success in its defense of incarcerated Africans and never stops defending Africans who refuse to repudiate our anticolonial struggle for liberation.

InPDUM demands that Leroy Jones’ convictions be overturned.  We demand significant transformations to the judicial process that punishes prosecutors for their actions.  We also demand reparations be paid to Leroy and his family for his 15 years of stolen labor.Leroy’s family has organized a GoFundMe to welcome him home and help him get on his feet.  To support Leroy and his family you can go HERE

End mass incarceration

Build the George Jackson Prison Outreach Program

Build the Black People’s Courts

End mass incarceration

Build the George Jackson Prison Outreach Program

Build the Black People’s Courts

End mass incarceration

Build the George Jackson Prison Outreach Program

Build the Black People’s Courts

Put the power in the hands of the African Community

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