Protest over convictions

first_imgLANCASTER – Family and friends of a man and his nephew convicted of robbing a Sam’s Club store protested Monday outside the Antelope Valley Courthouse, saying the men were wrongly convicted. The mother of the younger man, Robert Jones, said the surveillance tape from the membership warehouse store was altered to show him as being the robber. “We are protesting for two innocent people. One is my son, one is my brother,” said said Mary Jones, 41, of Palmdale. “I have evidence from a forensic specialist stating (Jones) is not the same person on the tape from the store. The tape was altered to make it look like my son.” Jones and his uncle Arthur Ross, a former Sam’s Club employee, were sentenced in November to lengthy prison terms after being convicted of robbing the store in January 2004. The case is on appeal. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Ross, who was then 35 and had worked for the Palmdale Sam’s Club since it opened in 2003, was found guilty of planning the Jan. 5 robbery with Jones, then 20, who was convicted of being the gunman who carried it out. Ross was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison and Jones to approximately 23 years to life. Mary Jones said she received the forensic analyst’s report before the sentencing but that the judge “brushed it off.” She said the expert from New York state is willing to testify to his findings. Deputy District Attorney Michael Blake, who prosecuted the case, said the family’s claims are baseless and ridiculous. “This defense claim was known to both sides from the beginning of the case. There was a claim from the very beginning that the tape was altered. There was absolutely no evidence to support that claim,” Blake said. “The original tape was produced in court and provided to the jury. The defense had access to it. It was played for the jury and the jury found these people guilty,” he added. “Where was that expert during the trial? You would think it would have come out during the trial.” About 15 to 20 people held signs and walked along both sides of 4th Street West, the street that runs in front of the courthouse. They chanted, “Free Ross and Jones.” One of them shouted into a bullhorn. Mary Jones said one witness during the trial said her son was not the robber. Relatives said the six-photo lineup used by investigators to show to victims to identify the suspect was itself suspect. Robert Jones’ photograph was the only one that had a blue background while the others had brown backgrounds. His was the only one that showed head, neck and shoulders; the others were just head shots. When shown next to a door measuring 6 feet in height, the robber in the tape is shorter than the door, while Robert Jones is 6-feet-2, they said. “With all this evidence to clear him, why is he still in jail? I don’t understand that,” Mary Jones said. Jones’ attorney had argued that authorities had arrested the wrong person, and Ross’ attorney said circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution did not prove anything more than that he was there in the store. A third man was arrested but no charges were filed against him. The Sam’s Club was robbed just before 8 p.m. Jan. 5, 2004, by a gunman who walked in, spent about 10 minutes in the store and then went upstairs to the office. In the office, the man pulled out a gun and confronted a female employee, whom he forced into the cash room. He couldn’t get the vault door open. But on the way downstairs, he encountered another employee carrying cash from a register, deputies said. The gunman stole that cash and fled out an emergency exit. Jones was arrested Jan. 29, 2004, in Kern County, where he had been sent on a job by a temporary employment agency. Ross was arrested the next day at Sam’s Club. Karen Maeshiro, (661) 267-5744 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more