Continued from Page 1
A jury found Jones guilty of the capital murder of Berthena Bryant in February 2001 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction and sentence in November 2003. All of his appeals in state and federal court were denied. Most of them focused on challenging the admissibility of the confession he made about Sanders and Peoples' killings to Ranger Akin and did not contest his guilt in Bryant's murder.
Ricky Carl Roosa had a previous conviction in Oklahoma for grand larceny. He was convicted in 2001 on two counts of capital murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Information on his current status was unavailable for this report.
On Death Row, Jones shifted the responsibility for his crimes from Roosa and his own alter-ego, "James," to a younger version of himself. Two weeks before his execution, with the aid of the New York Times, he made a video appealing personally to Governor Greg Abbott for clemency. Jones claimed to be a different, more thoughtful person than when he killed his great aunt - one who was no longer addicted to drugs or under the influence of street gangs. "At the end of the day," he said, "how can you say, 'well, I killed somebody 20-something years ago, and you're that same person, so you need to die'? I'm nothing like that person. Like they say in the Bible, as you grow, you put away childish things, and you become a man. And I became a man on death row. So now you [sic] killing the man, and not the child."
Texas governors do not have the power to unilaterally commute criminal punishments. They may only approve or reject recommendations made by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. At the time of the New York Times's video, the parole board had not addressed Jones's case.
Bryant's sister, Mattie Long, wrote the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles a letter asking them to grant Jones clemency. She wrote that she forgave him and, from her visits with him in prison, saw how much he had changed. The board denied Jones's clemency petition on Tuesday, the day before his execution. The Supreme Court declined to take his case on Wednesday.
Owing to a communications mixup, media outlets that had reporters onsite and standing by were not notified that the execution was about to begin, so there were no media witnesses to Jones's execution. Jeremy Desel, Director of Communications for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, blamed the mixup on a recent personnel change within the department and said he expected a thorough investigation into the matter.
Jones's execution was the first carried out in Texas in which a spiritual advisor who was not employed by the prison was present at the prisoner's side. This policy change came after a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court decision arising from the scheduled execution of a Buddhist prisoner, where the prison was unable to provide a Buddhist chaplain. The Court banned all prison-employed chaplains from the death chamber unless the prison could provide a chaplain for every prisoner's religion.
According to a transcript released by the TDCJ, Jones's last words were: "I was so glad to leave this world a better, more positive place. It is all part of life, like a big, full plate of food for the soul. I hope I left everyone a plate of food full of happy memories, happiness, and no sadness."
After giving his last statement, Jones was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital. He was pronounced dead at 6:40 p.m.
Jones's execution was the first in Texas in ten months and only the second since the outbreak of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, which originated from China in March 2020.
By David Carson. Posted on 20 May 2021.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, court documents, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Huntsville Item, MSN.com, New York Times.