We were pleased when prosecutors in South Carolina’s eleventh judicial circuit announced their intention to seek the death penalty against Timothy Ray Jones, Jr. – a 37-year-old Red Bank, S.C. man who has confessed to killing his five children inside a Lexington County mobile home five years ago.
No one deserves it more …
Jones Jr. is accused of beating his six-year-old son, Nahtahn, to death and then strangling eight-year-old daughter Merah, seven-year-old son Elias, two-year-old son Gabriel and one-year-old daughter Elaine Marie on the evening of August 28, 2014.
The two oldest children he allegedly strangled with his bare hands. The two youngest were allegedly strangled with a belt.
Nearly two weeks after these horrific murders, Jones Jr. led police to a ravine off a secluded logging road near Oak Hill, Alabama. This is where he disposed of their bodies following a meandering, nine-day trek through five states.
Jones, Jr. is claiming he is not guilty by reason of insanity, but evidence points to calculated efforts to evade accountability for his actions.
Perhaps by the time this case is resolved, the Palmetto State will have figured out how to implement its capital punishment laws.
But we hold out little hope of that …
Expecting South Carolina politicians to get this right is clearly betting against the odds – as evidenced by the state’s ongoing death penalty dysfunction.
She is absolutely right …
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In the case of Jones, Jr., though, prosecutors could not even get through the trial’s opening statements without coughing up the ball.
Specifically, S.C. eleventh circuit deputy solicitor Shawn Graham became emotional during his remarks to jurors – with reporter John Monk of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper tweeting that the veteran prosecutor “appear(ed) to start crying twelve minutes into his opening statement.”
Public defender Rob Madsen objected to this emotional outburst, and Graham was allowed to continue his presentation – this time with “no more tears,” according to Monk’s tweet.
In his coverage of the proceedings, Monk reported that Graham “became choked up and appeared to start weeping as he talked about Jones’ children.”
Meanwhile, reporter Seanna Adcox of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier noted that Graham’s voice was “quavering,” and that he was able to continue his presentation to jurors only after “collecting himself.”
Attorneys are supposed to control their emotions while presenting arguments to juries – and Graham’s failure to do so could jeopardize the entire case against Jones, Jr.
In fact, once jurors had left the courtroom Madsen moved for a mistrial on behalf of his client – arguing the deputy solicitor’s improper display of emotion unfairly clouded jurors’ perspectives.
S.C. circuit court judge Eugene Griffith shot down that motion, however, saying he did not see Graham shed any tears. Griffith further noted that the prosecutor was able to complete his presentation to the jury without become “shaky” again.
Still, this is hardly an inspiring start for the state … and Griffith’s basis for ruling against Madsen’s mistrial motion (i.e. he “didn’t see any tears”) is problematic and exceedingly likely to draw an effective appellate challenge.
“That will be the first issue up on appeal,” one veteran prosecutor told us.
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S.C. eleventh circuit solicitor Rick Hubbard defended his deputy and chastised Madsen for objecting – arguing his attorneys have been shouldering all sorts of emotional burdens related to this case and should not be expected to hold it together completely.
“Everybody in here is a human being,” Hubbard told Adcox. “Even lawyers are going to be touched. We’ve been carrying a lot on our shoulders and souls.”
We do not disagree …
This case is definitionally heinous. Gut-wrenching. And its gruesome details – many of which have been shielded from the public in an effort to ensure a fair trial for Jones Jr. – are now coming to light in dramatic fashion.
It is plain to see how anyone could become emotional in relaying such information to a jury.
Still, prosecutors have a job to do – and failing to do their jobs could imperil what is (or ought to be) an open-and-shut case.
In fact, it may have already done that …
Jones Jr. admitted his guilt. He guided police to the garbage bags containing the bodies of his murdered children. We have no doubt all of the evidence submitted in this trial will attest to his guilt, and so far we have seen absolutely nothing to suggest his “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea will be successful.
He deserves to die, and were it up to us he would be put to death in a manner similar to the way in which he killed his victims.
Given when this crime took place it should have happened already, honestly …
But there is little likelihood of justice for Jones Jr.’s victims if South Carolina’s death penalty remains effectively rescinded. And less likelihood still if Hubbard’s prosecutors cannot maintain a tighter grip on their emotions …
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