Two men charged in the highly-publicized Oct. 15 murder of Jackson State University student Jaylen Burns are now free after evidence published in news reports raised doubts about the arrests.
A judge released Joshua Brown on Nov. 10, WLBT reported; a judge ordered the release of Jamison Kelly, a second suspect from Columbia, Miss., this morning, Brendan Hall reported. An arrest warrant claimed Kelly drove Brown away from the crime scene “knowing that [Brown] had committed a murder.”
The releases followed reporting from WLBT and the Mississippi Free Press on surveillance footage and GPS data that appeared to show Brown was about 90 miles away in Hattiesburg, Miss., at the time of the murder; WLBT first reported on the existence of the evidence on Oct. 30.
WLBT’s Anthony Warren reported that Hinds County Judge James Bell said in court this morning that Kelly “was on the ground when the shots took place,” but “we don’t have evidence that Kelly knew (someone) with him picked up a gun or fired a gun.”
“He cannot be held on the minimum evidence presented to the court,” the judge added, saying it “fails to meet the minimum standard.” Officials have not said what the evidence is.
For weeks, Brown’s family and friends proclaimed his innocence, sharing surveillance video, witness statements and GPS-tracking data from Brown’s Life 360 account that they said proved he was not on the campus of Jackson State, or in Jackson at all, at the time of Burns’ death. Hinds County Sheriff Tyree Jones said officials ordered Brown’s release Friday evening, several hours after the Mississippi Free Press published its report.
Burns, a Chicago native studying industrial technology at JSU, died during the weekend of JSU’s homecoming on Oct. 15 after someone shot him; his father, Jason Burns, said he had been trying to break up a fight at an on-campus apartment complex at the time of his death. Jaylen Burns’ death sent shock and grief throughout Jackson and beyond, with many describing the 21-year-old’s passion for service and leadership.
“To whoever took my son, they didn’t just take him from me, they took him from the world,” Burns’ mother La’Trice Wright told Chicago’s WGN9 on Oct. 16.
After Brown’s arrest on Oct. 19, authorities held the 19-year-old at the Raymond County Detention Center on the charges of murder and possession of a weapon on school property. Police charged Kelly with accessory after the fact to murder. Authorities have not released updates about the status of Brown’s charges.
JSU investigators have not revealed what evidence led them to seek Brown and Kelly’s arrests, nor have officials explained the reason for Brown’s release Friday night.
When asked for comment about Brown’s release today, JUS Director of Public Relations Rachel James-Terry said the department had “no comment.”