Kelley Drye Successfully Represents Corey Jones in Death Penalty Case: Federal Court Drops All Charges

On December 31, 2008, all charges were dismissed in the case of United States v. Corey Jones and Jason Jones, which was pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The case had been awaiting a decision by the Department of Justice as to whether to seek the death penalty. Corey Jones and his brother Jason were accused of killing a government informant, Frank Jones (not related to the defendants). On May 30, 2008, Kelley Drye was appointed by the federal court to represent Corey Jones.

Frank Jones was shot three times shortly after midnight on May 24, 2008, at the corner of 165th Street and Ogden Avenue in the Bronx. New York City detectives arrested both Corey and Jason Jones on the afternoon of May 24, 2008. The defendants were transferred to federal custody on May 30, 2008 when the U.S. Attorney’s Office took jurisdiction over the case because the victim, Frank Jones, had been a federal informant for the preceding 14 months. According to the federal complaint originally filed by the government, an unidentified witness claimed that Corey Jones had handed Jason Jones a gun which Jason then used to shoot Frank.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman, on June 11, 2008, ordered Corey Jones detained without bail pending trial after a bail hearing at which the defense produced various witnesses who testified that Corey had been in an apartment with them at the time the shots were fired and, could not possibly have been at the scene of the shooting as the government’s unidentified mystery witness had claimed. The defense also introduced witness testimony from a bystander at the shooting who herself had been shot in the toe, JoAnn McKoy. Ms. McKoy, who knew both Corey and Jason for many years, told police when Corey and Jason were arrested, that neither of them were at the shooting.

Corey Jones’ attorneys appealed Magistrate Pitman’s detention order to U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero who heard further testimony from two New York City detectives in early July, 2008. They testified that Frank Jones, when interviewed at the hospital after the shooting and several hours before his death, failed to identify his attacker. Frank’s brother, Shakienne, who was present at the scene of the shooting, provided evidence that someone other than the Joneses had committed the murder. He told police that the shooter was another man. On May 24, he produced a letter from Marvin Lopez asking an incarcerated leader of the Bloods, the gang to which Frank Jones belonged, for permission to retaliate against Frank. Two days before Frank’s murder, he and others had physically beaten Lopez. Following the additional testimony, Judge Marrero again denied Corey Jones’ request for bail.

In the meantime, unbeknownst to defense attorneys and the federal prosecutors, on June 4, 2008 Marvin Lopez was shot seven times in an apartment building in Manhattan. Lopez survived and on July 11, Shakienne was arrested by the police and charged with the attempted homicide of Lopez. Lopez identified Shakienne as his attacker.

Based on this evidence, and new evidence presented to the court by Jason Jones’ attorneys, Corey’s lawyers again asked Judge Marrero for reconsideration of the Order of Detention by which Corey was being held in custody without bail. Jason’s lawyers had retrieved Jason’s MetroCard which police confiscated at the time of his arrest. The New York Transit Authority readout from the MetroCard, together with photographs taken of Jason at a check cashing establishment where he cashed his paycheck, and the testimony of four witnesses who were with Jason at the time of Frank Jones’ murder established beyond question that Jason could not possibly have been the shooter as claimed by the still unidentified government witness. After reviewing the mystery” witness’s grand jury testimony ex parte (testimony which has never been shown to defense counsel), Judge Marrero reversed the detention order and ordered the release of Corey Jones on bail. This occurred in mid-October, after Corey had spent more than four months in jail. The government had consented to Jason Jones’ release on bail one week earlier.

In November, the government began a new grand jury investigation in which it claimed it was investigating whether Corey’s alibi witnesses had committed perjury and obstruction of justice. Kelley Drye objected on the grounds that the government’s grand jury subpoenas directed to alibi witnesses were an improper use of the grand jury and simply an attempt to intimidate the defense witnesses. Kelley Drye previously proposed that the alibi witnesses would take lie detector tests if the government’s still unidentified mystery” witness would do so. The Court, however, upheld the subpoenas. After the government had proceeded with its new grand jury investigation, and after Judge Marrero directed the government to also make these grand jury minutes available for his ex parte inspection, on December 31, 2008 the government finally moved to dismiss all charges against Corey and Jason.

Associate Sean R. Flanagan and paralegal Matthew Regan worked on this matter.