Pardoned killer denied clean record

Published 9:55 am Friday, February 27, 2015

A pardoned killer who stabbed a Vicksburg woman nearly two dozen times in 1992 will not get his criminal record wiped clean.

Thursday the Mississippi Supreme Court denied expungement for Clarence Jones who had pleaded guilty to the stabbing death of 22-year-old Carla M. Smith at Embassy Apartments on Grove Street. Smith was stabbed at least 20 times, according to court records.

“I’m glad they sided with us. This should not disappear,” said Assistant District Attorney Bert Carraway who argued the case against Jones’ record being sealed.

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An expungement erases a charge from a criminal record, sealing it from public view or background checks. Convicts who have their record expunged can legally answer on employment, rental and school applications that they have never been arrested or convicted of any crime.

“His arrest record is the last thing that shows that he did what he did to her. Her parents have said the only thing that shows her existence any more are these documents,” Carraway said.

Thursday afternoon Carraway presented a certified copy of the Supreme Court ruling to Smith’s mother.

Jones pleaded guilty to murder in July 1992 and was sentenced to life by Circuit Judge Frank Vollor. Because he was convicted of murder before 1995, Jones was eligible for parole, but he was denied in 2003. The next year, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove commuted his sentence and Jones was released on parole. During Musgrove’s tenure, Jones worked as a trusty in the Governor’s Mansion.

Gov. Haley Barbour gave Jones a full pardon in 2008, saying that he was “a diligent and dedicated workman,” who had been “rehabilitated and has led a useful, productive and law-abiding life.”

“It wasn’t because he was innocent,” Carraway said.

Jones’ attorney Tom Fortner of Hattiesburg did not return a call for comment Thursday.

Fortner argued before Circuit Judge M. James Chaney in 2013 that the judge had constitutional authority to clear Jones’ record, but Chaney ruled to the contrary, citing that murder was not among a list of expugnable offenses.

Smith and her new boyfriend Kevin Wynn entered her apartment on Grove Street in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 1992.  Jones was hiding in a back room of the apartment and confronted the couple who had been dating for about a month, police have said.

Jones held a butcher knife to Smith’s throat and ordered Wynn to leave. Wynn went to a nearby house and called police.

Jones fled the apartment complex before police arrived and later surrendered at police headquarters.

Since his release from prison, Jones has worked as a mechanic for the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol in Jackson, according to testimony in his expungement hearing.

Jones shares a name with but is not related to Clarence Jones, 25, who pleaded guilty to aggravated domestic assault in 2013.

The 25-year-old Jones stabbed his ex-girlfriend on the floor of Ameristar Casino where she was working as a waitress. He is serving a 16-year-sentence and has additional charges pending in Warren County Circuit Court.