A judge on Wednesday ordered a young woman from Rahway accused of fatally stabbing her mother to be released on home detention.
Malika Jones, 22, is charged with first-degree murder and two weapons offenses for allegedly killing her mother during a Feb. 16 argument about going back to school.
The 57-year-old victim, Inell Jones, was found dead with a single stab wound to her upper left chest at their East Albert Street home, authorities said.
But Malika Jones’ attorney painted a much different picture of his client — and the tumultuous relationship with her mom — in Superior Court of Union County during a detention hearing Wednesday that went more than two hours.
She was formerly a student at Barnard College studying dentistry and had an outpouring of support from her classmates and professors in the form of letters. About two dozen people, including her father, sister, grandmother, pastors and neighbors attended the detention hearing to support the younger Jones.
“This young lady is unlike clients that I have,” Malika Jones’ attorney Raymond Hamlin said. “It’s unlike young men and young women that I met. I don’t remember ever meeting someone being charged in an offense like this that was in an Ivy League school.”
The 22-year-old was pushed by her mother to become a doctor, Hamlin said, but she wanted to study theater instead. She chose to study dentistry to appease her mom, but is now enrolled in a dentistry program at a community college in New York after taking time off from Barnard College, Hamlin added.
But Union County Assistant Prosecutor Armando Suarez argued that Jones should be detained because a person charged with killing her own mother would pose an even greater threat to the community.
“If this individual committed this act against her own mother in that home, what conditions can there possibly be that this court deems as sufficient to protect someone who is not her mother from acting in this way again if there’s an argument,” Suarez said in court. “I don’t see it.”
Malika Jones quietly cried continuously in the courtroom and shook during most of the detention hearing. Her nearly two-dozen supporters broke out in applause when Superior Court Judge Lara DiFabrizio ruled that she could be released with a home monitoring device to a couple who were once neighbors with the Joneses.
“To just look at the charge and detain, that goes against — and throws in the face — the purpose of criminal justice reform,” said DiFabrizio, referring to state bail reform laws that went into effect about three years ago.
The judge said her consideration for releasing Malika Jones went beyond the seriousness of the charges. She also heard testimony from the couple who would constantly be watching her under home detention and took into account the 32 letters she received supporting her.
Hamlin, meanwhile, also argued that Malika Jones acted in self-defense and was struggling with the knife while it was in her mother’s hand when the blade collided with her mom. The younger Jones also sustained a cut to her wrist and her mother mocked her about it, he said.
He also claimed that Inell Jones isolated Malika Jones from her father and his side of the family. The last time she had seen her father was when she was 8-years-old, but he attended the detention hearing on Wednesday.
The defense attorney raised questions about what is likely to be the prosecution’s star witness: a man who was living in the house at the time of the stabbing. The man described himself as a friend of the mother’s and did not get up to see what was happening despite hearing dishes crashing, Hamlin said.
Malika Jones called 911 in a hysterical state to report what she said was “an accident,” Hamlin said. The prosecutor, meanwhile, argued that it took Malika Jones about 20 minutes to call police at the urging of the man in the home.
The younger Jones asked through her attorney during the detention hearing if she would be able to attend college in New York under home detention. The judge refused and told her to consider taking online courses.
The prosecutor plans to appeal the judge’s decision.