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Star witness says she was coerced in murder trial

Sarah Wallace reports from Queens
January 6, 2014 2:54:09 PM PST
There was a dramatic scene in a Queens courtroom Monday. A star witness in a 1994 murder case now says she lied about identifying the suspect 19 years ago. She says she was coerced and pressured by police and prosecutors.

The eyewitness claims she told detectives from the very beginning that she didn't see the killer on a Far Rockaway Street 19 years ago, but that wasn't good enough. She says she was made to lie.

57-year-old Joan Purser-Gennace is one of two eyewitnesses who helped put 45-year-old Robert Jones in prison for a Far Rockaway murder in 1994. His sister and other family members listened as Purser-Gennace testified she was instructed by detectives to pick Jones out of a line-up and later pressured to identify him in court. She was an illegal immigrant she claims and felt threatened.

"The only thing that I have to say to her is thank you, because it takes a strong person to stand on the good," said Darlene Dawson, Jones' aunt.

"My brother has been in jail for 20 years. My mother's gone, my father's gone, my brother, his life has been stolen," said Gertrude Jones-Pinnock, Jones' sister.

New defense attorneys for Jones, who is serving a 25-year-to-life sentence, located Purser-Gennace and another eyewitness several months ago. Purser-Gennace claims she was waiting for someone to find her so she could finally tell the truth.

"They have used various tactics, all of them improper, to get witnesses to come on the stand, under oath, and tell lies," said Chris Joralemon, defense attorney.

Prosecutors argue that Purser-Gennace's allegations of misconduct are completely untrue and the story she is telling now is full of holes.

"It makes no sense, why 20 years later, why this person would come forward and tell this very believable story about being under duress and testifying, and coming now today really just to tell the truth and to be unburdened," Joralemon said.

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