Dallas man facing death sentence for murder he didn’t commit freed after two years in prison

Francis Akhalbey Mar 16, 2020 at 10:00am

March 16, 2020 at 10:00 am | News

Francis Akhalbey

Francis Akhalbey | Staff Writer

March 16, 2020 at 10:00 am | News

JaTyrone Hollis was charged with a 2017 murder despite maintaining his innocence. He was 17 when he was arrested -- Photo Credit: NBC DFW

“It’s time I can’t get back. My grandmother passed away with me being incarcerated and the experience I went through was just heartbreaking,” JaTyrone Hollis, who was acquitted after being charged with a murder he did not commit when he was 17, said.

Despite maintaining his innocence, he spent over two years behind bars.

According to WFAA, Hollis, now 20, was charged with capital murder after the fatal shooting of Isaiah Deanthony Jones in 2017. He faced a death penalty had he been found guilty.

Hollis was accused by Mesquite police of robbing and killing Jones while he was in a car in a botched gun deal. His attorneys, however, argued he did not pull the trigger and was forced to admit to shooting Jones. Surveillance footage also showed he did not get into the car before Jones was killed.

“I have never touched the car,” Hollis said, WFAA reports.

Two other suspects linked to the case weren’t pursued by the police, and DNA, fingerprints or any physical evidence linking him to the shooting weren’t found, his attorneys also argued. Another suspect who was arrested in connection with the murder also had his case dismissed.

“They got tunnel vision that any other evidence that could have exonerated him on the spot they avoided taking it to heart,” Hollis’ attorney, Justin Moore said.

He was cleared of the charges on Friday.

“I knew I had not committed the crime that they accused me of and I put my faith in the Lord,” Hollis said, WFAA further reports.

“I still can’t believe it because of how hard they tried to wrongly accuse me of this crime.”

Although he was acquitted, he was still kept in custody and was only released by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday after protesters thronged the jail to demand his release. His lawyers claim he was tried unfairly.

“It happens more often than we realize. It’s a function of the reality of the system,” defense attorney George Milner said.

Speaking to NBC DFW about his acquittal, Hollis said: “The moment I heard the verdict I couldn’t even celebrate, it was so overwhelming. I’m happy to be out but I just can’t enjoy it the way I’m supposed to enjoy it.”

With over two years wasted behind bars, Hollis, however, has something to smile about as an anonymous donor offered to cover funds for his GED and college.

“That’s a blessing,” he told WFAA.

District Attorney John Creuzot issued a statement after his release on Monday.

“Today, defense attorneys for JaTyrone Hollis, held a press conference in which they asserted their client had been improperly indicted by this office and alleged this administration acted in bad faith. That is untrue. In fact, Mr. Hollis was indicted on October 25, 2018. I did not take office until January 2019. His case was handled by the previous administration.

“Furthermore, two of the three trial attorneys are personal and professional friends of mine and none of them raised any concerns to me about improper prosecution. Of course, we always give the defendant the presumption of innocence and do not expect that someone will be found guilty of any crime, unless and until, we prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury decided we did not and we will not question their decision.

“Additionally, Saturday morning when I learned from George Milner, one of Mr. Hollis’ attorneys, that he was still in jail, I immediately contacted Sheriff Marian Brown. Sheriff Brown contacted Judge Holmes and Mr. Hollis was released later Saturday afternoon.

“Though our office played no role in Mr. Hollis remaining in jail, we sincerely apologize on behalf of Dallas County that he was not released after he was acquitted.”

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