Court blocks release -- Kinston man's murderer among those on list
By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on December 15, 2009 1:46 PM
A Goldsboro man convicted in the 1975 shooting of a Kinston man came within an hour of being released Monday -- after a court decision challenging his life sentence.
Alford Jones, who was convicted of shooting insurance salesman William B. Turner with a sawed-off shotgun, had been serving a court-ordered life sentence.
Then, a decision in the case of State vs. Bowden cast Jones' sentence into question, defining 80-year "life" sentences for prisoners convicted between April 8, 1974, and June 30, 1978.
Judge Ripley E. Rand, in his order on Jones and a Wake County prisoner's petition for habeas corpus, said Jones' sentence falls under a period "best described as the 'Pre-Fair Sentencing' regime."
Under that system, crimes were divided up into felonies or misdemeanors, and first-degree murder was punishable only by the death penalty.
Then, a 1976 Supreme decision in Woodson vs. North Carolina cleared out the state's "death row," saying that mandatory death sentences in all first-degree murder cases did not give judges and juries proper discretion.
Jones continued to serve a life sentence, and was awarded credits for "good behavior" by the prison system.
Those good behavior credits were the focus of Jones' request for release, and his attorney, Glenn Barfield of Goldsboro, argued that Jones had been illegally incarcerated since Feb. 7, 2006.
Barfield did not return multiple requests for comment left on his cell phone.
In Rand's Monday ruling, he agreed with Barfield's assessment that people sentenced under the "pre-Fair Sentencing regime" were indeed entitled to the "good behavior" and other such credits, effectively reducing Jones' sentence.
While noting that "petition was convicted of first-degree murder in the cold-blooded killing of William B. Turner Sr." Rand ruled Jones had "served the entirety of that life sentence."
In granting the petition for habeas corpus, Rand ordered Jones "to be unconditionally released from the North Carolina Department of Correction no later than 5 p.m. Monday.
An appeals court issued a stay on the decision after a state challenge of the ruling.
District Attorney Branny Vickory said Jones and a few accomplices were accused in the mid-'70s of following Turner through Kinston as he collected his money.
After the insurance salesman had visited a number of homes, Jones and his accomplices confronted Turner, demanding the cash.
"They knew he'd have money on him," Vickory said. "They came up to him at that last house and pulled a shotgun on him."
When the murder victim reached into his pocket, Jones shot him in the chest with a small-gauge sawed-off shotgun, the district attorney said.