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In New England, These Exonerated Prisoners Take A Leap Of Faith

An exoneree comes in for landing. Photo by Bruce Gellerman for WBUR

An exoneree comes in for landing. Photo by Bruce Gellerman for WBUR

On Memorial Day, Darrell Jones was standing with a group of men who hardly knew each other, but who share an unenviable life experience as former prisoners.

They strapped on harnesses and chutes, checking and re-checking, as Jones offered a word of advice: “Put on Chapstick, because you’re definitely going to have a dry mouth.”

These skydivers in training were, until recently, among New England’s 32,000 prison inmates. Now that they are outside of bars, they are free to jump with family members, friends and even their lawyers.

“It’s a day for us to take control of our own lives and not count on the court system, not count on anybody. This is as free as we can get,” said Jones.

Monday morning, Jones will be back in a Brockton Courtroom as his 32-year legal battle enters a new phase, a final hearing before he’s re-tried in January.

Jones was freed last year when his conviction in a 1987 murder was overturned, due in part to WBUR’s investigation of the case. A judge ruled that the jury was racially biased, that the lead Brockton detective had lied at the original trial, and that police deliberately altered a key piece of evidence.

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