A Note on the Jones Family

Monday, September 25th, 2006

The parents of Ron Jones were present at the hearing last week. I’m sure that there’s very little on which Ron Jones, Sr. and I would see eye to eye. And I’m sure that the friends and family of Officer Jones aren’t very happy with me. But I do want to note that Mr. and Mrs. Jones both looked to be in a great deal of pain throughout the hearing. And despite that they and I obviously disagree about what happened that night, and what ought to happen over the next few months, I am sure that their pain is very real, that losing and adult son must be excruciatingly awful, and that to that end, they deserve a great deal of sympathy. I did feel for them.

I’ll get into the details later, but one of the more unfortunate conclusions the defense team was forced to draw in light of the discovery of Randy Gentry was that Ron Jones likely misrepresented the evidence in obtaining the warrant for Cory Maye’s apartment. I’m sure that hearing this new bit of information at the hearing only compounded their agony. Unfortunately, it now seems to be the most probable and likely version of events. To my mind, this isn’t an indictment of Jones’ character — he was by all accounts was a decent man and a good cop — but rather an indictment of the nature of drug policing, and the “war” mentality and lack of oversight that make these kinds of Fourth Amendment shortcuts routine.

I’ll get into the how and why of all of this later. But I do want to emphasize that for all the bigotry, corruption, and ugliness I’ve found while reporting on this case, none of that sticks to the late Officer Jones. Black and white, residents of Prentiss I’ve spoken with have had only kind words for him, even among those with rather low opinions of the police in general. I happen to think Officer Jones made a fatal error that evening. But my guess is that he made it not out of any inherent corruption, racism or other ill-motivation, but because he genuinely thought a shortcut here and there were rather inconsequential to his larger mission — getting illicit drugs out of Prentiss. That shouldn’t — and from my perspective doesn’t — do much of anything to otherwise taint his memory and reputation.

But it is a crucial bit of information in giving Cory Maye a fair crack at real justice. And unfortunately, it’s a necessary part of any real accounting of this case. If that’s how it happened — and I believe it is — Jones’ misrepresentation cost him his life that night. And I’d argue that we ought to do what we can to keep the number of tragedies resulting from it at one, not two.

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