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False-arrest lawsuit trial begins

A former murder suspect, seeking $14.2-million in damages from the Sheriff's Office, says detectives planted evidence and violated his rights.

By CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 11, 2000


TAMPA -- In their zeal to convict Jonathan Dye Jones for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Pasco Sheriff's Office detectives fabricated a confession, planted evidence, and ignored leads pointing to other suspects, Jones' attorney said Monday in U.S. District Court.

Arrested and later acquitted of the 1993 murder, Jones, 33, of Dade City is seeking $14.2-million in damages from the Sheriff's Office. He is accusing two detectives of false arrest, and Sheriff Lee Cannon, as head of the agency, of encouraging his employees to violate suspects' constitutional rights.

"My client, based on a falsified confession and evidence, faced a possibility of being electrocuted," said Jones' attorney, John Mallah of Miami.

In opening statements before a jury Monday, Mallah launched a wide-ranging attack on how detectives investigated the murder of 36-year-old Kathryn Murphy, who was found raped, stabbed and strangled in her parents' Lacoochee home on Nov. 21, 1993.

When they questioned Jones, detectives ignored his repeated requests to speak to a lawyer, and failed to record what they claimed was a confession, Mallah said. And they failed to adequately test the clothing of Kenny Wayne Lindsay Jr., 45, Murphy's boyfriend at the time, who found the body, Mallah said.

"Once they falsified the confession, the entire investigation of the crime was done in an effort to force the facts to incriminate Jonathan Jones, as opposed to discovering who committed this horrendous crime," Mallah said.

Mallah said Tim Powers and Rod Bishop, the detectives who handled the Jones case and who are named in the lawsuit, illegally destroyed investigative notes that might have pointed to other suspects.

"When they destroyed those notes, they destroyed the truth," Mallah said.

Contending the detectives fabricated a bootprint that linked Jones to the murder scene, Mallah pointed to a gap between the time detectives seized one of Jones' boots on Nov. 26, 1993 and the time it was logged into an evidence locker on Dec. 2.

After Jones' acquittal, Mallah said Powers continued harassing Jones, once by pulling him over at gunpoint -- allegedly to give him a traffic ticket -- even though Powers does not routinely hand out tickets.

Even though a jury later acquitted Jones of murder, countered Sheriff's Office attorney John Jolly, the detectives had evidence that supplied a legal basis to arrest him. Murphy's ghastly murder, including evidence of slow sexual torture, pointed to someone who knew her and had reason to hate her. Jones considered her his "one true love," yet had been dumped by her a year before the murder, said Jolly, of Tallahassee.

Detectives also found Jones' necklace at the crime scene, Jolly said, and there was a scrape on his neck for which he gave contradictory explanations. Detectives found no such scratches on Lindsay, the other suspect.

The night before the murder is believed to have occurred, Jolly said, a bar patron saw a sullen Jones getting drunk and saying he was "not going to be hurt anymore." After the murder, Jolly said, Jones told an acquaintance he had a "weird dream" in which he witnessed the murder of a woman who had no face.

While detectives insist Jones confessed, he did not cooperate when they tried to get it on tape, Jolly said.

Called to the stand Monday as Jones' first witness, Sheriff Lee Cannon testified that in 1993, there was an unwritten policy to record interviews whenever possible, though he made it a written policy in 1996.

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