Today an Arizona Superior Court Judge ruled that the guilty verdict against Monica Jones be reversed because of procedural errors during her trial earlier last year. Monica is elated and in a telephone interview earlier today noted that, “this is a win and the truth has come out. It has taken many months for the appeal to rectify a decision that the first judge announced in less than a minute.” At the April 2014 trial, when Judge Hercules–in the absence of clear evidence–found Ms Jones guilty of “manifesting prostitution,” he stated she was not a “credible” witness because of having a prior conviction for prostitution. His abrupt decision shocked a packed court room of observers and supporters of Monica Jones.
Judge Mclennan–who vacated the ruling today–found that the trial court had erred in “considering the Defendant’s potential punishment in assessing her credibility.” Judge Hercules had argued that because Monica Jones had acknowledged having a prior conviction that she had a “motive [to lie] to avoid a mandatory 30-day sentence.” Today’s reversal shows that a defendant who is innocent also has motive to deny having carried out the act in question and the “fact that a defendant testifies that he or she did not commit the crime is not a valid indicator whether the defendant is testifying truthfully or falsely.” The reversal, however, did not draw any conclusions in regards to the Constitutional arguments to invalidate the “manifestation statute” brought by Monica Jones and her legal team.
And so while Monica has prevailed, her quest to end the profiling of so many in the community under the vague and discriminatory statute of “manifestation of prostitution” has not yet ended. “Today is a only small step for women, trans women and sex workers who have been convicted under this law, there is still so much more to be done to end the injustice of the arrests,” Ms Jones said. “I hope that my case is an inspiration for others. I hope this is a precedent for sex workers who have been charged to stand up and fight for their rights. I hope we see more and more individuals fighting against these types of charges.” Monica is currently in discussions with her legal team about how further constitutional challenges to the manifestation statute can be made.
The future is seems much brighter for Monica now that the guilty verdict has been reversed. “I’m really excited that I’ve won this case,” she said with relief, “Its been a long journey but the love and support that I got along the way kept me strong. I want to send my thanks to all who helped me on this journey.” Monica Jones plans to continue her studies and her human rights work for sex workers, women of color and the transgender community.