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Witness Recants Testimony in '94 Murder, Says Police Forced Her to Testify

By Janon Fisher | January 7, 2014 8:47am
 A Harlem man who served 19 years for the shooting death of his ex-lover, a street preacher, is trying to clear his name.
Robert Jones Case
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KEW GARDENS — The woman responsible for putting Robert Jones in prison more than 19 years ago for murder could now be the one to get him out.

Joan Gennace-Purser, whose testimony against Jones put him away for life for the 1994 murder of  his former lover Antoine Stone, told a Queens judge Monday that police and prosecutors threatened, coached and coerced her until she testified against Jones.

Jones, a small-time drug dealer from Harlem, has been fighting to get his conviction tossed before Queens Supreme Court Judge Joseph Zayas, arguing that police and prosecutors sent the wrong man to prison in the murder.

Stone was a drug-addict-turned-street-preacher who was shot in the stomach by a man riding a bicycle on Sept. 10, 1994, as Stone walked down Mott Avenue just after midnight.

"I was preaching to a drug dealer and he shot me. Why did he shoot me?" Stone told witnesses just before he died, according to statements.

Gennace-Purser, who was pregnant at the time, was near her window at the time of the murder and told NYPD Det. Gerald Weiser that she saw the men, but could not identify them.

In court on Monday, Gennace-Purser told judge Zayas that detectives weren't content with her tale, and returned to her house 10 times after the murder to get her to change her story. She said police also followed her son and daughter to school and tried to intimidate her by saying they knew where her husband worked and what time he clocked out.

Gennace-Purser added that she was in the country illegally and that police threatened to make an issue of it unless she did as they said.

Gennace-Purser said that when she finally agreed to look at a police lineup, the detectives showed her a mug shot of Jones and told her to memorize it.

"This is the guy that shot the guy. Look at it so when you see the guy in the lineup, you don't mistake him,'" Gennace-Purser said detectives told her. "I had never seen the guy before."

Gennace-Purser also told Queens assistant district attorney Debra Lynn Pomodore, who was prosecuting the case, that she could not identify the man who shot Stone, only to witness Pomodore personally call the detectives into the room.

"She's messing it up. Could you go take her and fix this thing," Pomodore told the police, Gennace-Purser said.

Jones sat at the defendant's table Monday in a white shirt and round wire-frame glasses wiping the tears from his eyes as Gennace-Purser testified. His sister wept outside the courtroom as well.

"The DA and the detective allowed this woman to lie," Gertrude Jones Pinnock, 38, shouted. "My brother's life has been stolen."

Queens prosecutor Robert Masters cross-examined Gennace-Purser Monday afternoon, and was scheduled to continue on Tuesday. Prosecutors have denied her claims as "preposterous," saying they stand behind their case.