Richard Wayne Jones (Texas)  Case Summary   Case Chart

Allegation

On August 22, 2000, the State of Texas, with the acquiescence of the federal government, executed Richard Wayne Jones by lethal injection. The state and federal governments failed to ensure Jones’s right to a fair and impartial trial. The unfair trial resulted in Jones’s execution.

Crime

On February 19, 1986, Tammy Livingston was abducted, robbed, and then stabbed 19 times and murdered. Her body was left in a field and, later, set on fire. The next day, a woman was arrested while trying to cash checks belonging to the victim. Under interrogation, the woman said she had obtained the checks from her boyfriend, Richard Jones. Jones was arrested that evening and was subsequently charged with and convicted of the crimes.

Salient Issues

Trial

Richard Wayne Jones was convicted of Tammy Livingston’s murder largely on the basis of his coerced confession. While in police custody, Jones was denied food and sleep for 21 hours, and was threatened with the death penalty for himself and his girlfriend if he did not confess. The circumstances under which he confessed were coercive, particularly for a man who was diagnosed as being border-line mentally retarded and had grown up in state schools – the last of which had been closed down for brutality.

The evidence was overwhelmingly circumstantial and contradictory. Although there were three eyewitnesses, only one identified Jones in a police lineup. Jones, however, did not fit her original description of the abductor. A second witness failed to identify Jones in a police line-up.

Jones’s sister, a drug addict, admitted to Jones that she and her boyfriend, Walt Sellers, committed the crimes. Sellers was never investigated as a possible suspect, despite his convictions for similar crimes during the period of 1985 to 1987. Sellers was arrested with a dagger one month after the murder. The Fort Worth Police confiscated the dagger and had it in their locker room at the time of Jones’s pre-trial investigation, but never subjected it to forensic testing. It was later destroyed. Three witnesses provided sworn statements that Sellers had been in possession of the victim’s property shortly after the murder. After Jones’s trial and conviction, two other witnesses gave affidavits in which they stated that Sellers told them he knew Jones was innocent.

Appeals

Jones’s trial lawyer filed his initial state appeals, which were denied. On November 1, 1993, Jones filed an application for post conviction habeas corpus. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court recommended relief be denied. The Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the recommendation, May 25, 1994. After obtaining new counsel, Jones was allowed to return to state appeals courts to raise issues, such as lack of effective trial counsel, which had not been raised by Jones’s original lawyer. Jones filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal district court on August 12, 1994. It was dismissed because several state issues were not resolved. He reapplied for state relief and was denied again with the Court of Criminal Appeals adopting the denial. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction in an unpublished opinion on April 7, 2000. The U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing his case.

Conclusion

Richard Wayne Jones was executed despite compelling evidence of his innocence that was never sufficiently considered by any court in the United States. He was convicted largely on the basis of a confession obtained under coercion and duress. Both the state and federal courts failed to protect Jones’s right to a fair trial by sanctioning the trial court’s use of the coerced confession to convict Jones. State and federal appeals courts denied the legal challenge to Jones’s conviction and the evidence of innocence uncovered after his conviction. Despite being subjected to police coercion, in violation of his constitutional and international human rights, and irrespective of evidence of his innocence, Jones was executed.

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