Louis Jones Jr., 53, died by injection at the U.S. Penitentiary near Terre Haute after President Bush and the U.S. Supreme Court refused his two final requests that they intervene.
Jones was the third person -- after Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and drug kingpin Juan Garza -- put to death by the federal government since it resumed executions in 2001 after a 38-year suspension.
Jones, who had no
prior criminal record, admitted kidnapping 19-year-old Pvt. Tracie Joy
from a Texas Air Force base,
raping her and beating her to death with a tire iron. His attorneys said exposure to the gas caused severe brain damage that led him to kill.
"Today was a day of
justice for Tracie," Irene McBride, the victim's mother, said after she
"Today Louis Jones finally was made accountable for his actions, and today he will meet his ultimate judge."
"Everybody is glad this is over. It's been a long eight years," she said. "The healing is not over; it's just beginning."
In Jones' final
he looked toward the room where the witnesses he had selected were
and mouthed the words,
"I love you." He did not look toward the room where McBride's family watched.
Asked by prison
whether he had a last statement, Jones said:
"Although the Lord hath chastised me forth, he hath not given me over unto death."
He then began singing a hymn with the refrain, "In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever 'til my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river."
Jones was declared dead at 7:08 a.m.
As the execution time neared, about a dozen death penalty opponents held a candlelight vigil near the prison. No death penalty supporters were present.
A sign leaning against a fence in front of the group said, "The tragic irony: As we rush recklessly to war with Iraq we are killing a veteran of the first Gulf War."
The White House and
the high court refused Monday to block the execution after reviewing
nerve gas claims.
White House officials declined to explain Bush's decision, and the court did not comment.
said his client had been hopeful as he awaited word on whether
Bush would consider his request to commute his death sentence to life in prison.
"He was really
strong and I think at peace with whatever happens. I attribute that to
-- I think that's sustained him through this," Floyd said before Bush's decision was announced.
and McBride's family in Centerville, Minnesota, opposed Jones' clemency
pointing to evidence of his aggressive behavior before the Gulf War,
including four incidents in which he beat up co-workers or fellow soldiers.
Following his Gulf
War service, Jones was promoted to master sergeant and honored with a
Jones killed McBride in 1995, two years after his honorable discharge from the Army.
handled the prosecution because McBride was abducted from a military
During his trial, defense experts testified Jones suffered brain damage from abuse as a child and post-traumatic stress from his combat tours.
In December 2000,
after his conviction, the Pentagon informed Jones that he, along with
130,000 other soldiers,
may have been exposed to low levels of nerve gas wafting from a weapons depot troops destroyed near the southern Iraqi city of Khamisiyah in March 1991.
The Associated Press
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. March 17 — With another war with Iraq looming, the federal government is poised to execute a decorated Gulf War veteran who claims severe brain damage from his exposure to Iraqi nerve gas led him to kill. Unless President Bush or the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, Louis Jones Jr. will be executed by lethal injection Tuesday at the U.S. Penitentiary near Terre Haute, Ind. Jones, 53, admitted kidnapping 19-year-old Pvt. Tracie Joy McBride from a Texas Air Force base, raping her and beating her to death with a tire iron. But Jones has asked the president to commute his death sentence to life without parole, citing what he says is evidence he suffered severe, personality-altering brain damage from exposure to sarin nerve gas in March 1991, after the Gulf War ended. Jones' attorney, Timothy Floyd, said his client's exposure to the gas, decorated military career and lack of a prior criminal record make him different from the 23 other inmates on federal death row. He said severe brain damage from the nerve gas made him prone to violent outbursts. "Compared with his whole life story up to that point, it's inexplicable that somebody like him could do something as horrible as he did," said Floyd, a law professor at Texas Tech University. "It's sort of a mystery, but the answer to it is what happened to him over there in Iraq." In addition to seeking executive clemency for Jones, Floyd has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his execution, claiming the federal death penalty is unconstitutional under a June 2002 court ruling. Jones would be the third person after Timothy McVeigh and drug kingpin Juan Garza put to death by the federal government since 1963. He would also be the second Gulf War veteran, after McVeigh, who faced a federal execution. Federal prosecutors oppose Jones' clemency request, pointing to evidence of his aggressive behavior before the Gulf War, including four incidents in which he beat up co-workers or fellow soldiers. He killed McBride on Feb. 18, 1995, two years after his honorable discharge from the Army. McBride's father thinks the gas-exposure argument is ridiculous. Jones alone is to blame for his daughter's killing, he said. "There were several thousand troops in the same war, and I have yet to hear of any one of them coming home, kidnapping, raping and violently murdering a young lady," said Jim McBride of Centerville, Minn. Dr. Robert Haley, an epidemiologist with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who has studied illnesses reported by Gulf war vets, said the tests show Jones suffered the most severe form of Gulf War Syndrome. "There is now a compelling involuntary link between Mr. Jones' neurotoxic war injury and his inexplicable crime," he wrote in a letter to Floyd. Haley did not examine Jones or testify at his trial. He based his findings on medical records and reports by psychiatrists and neurologists who testified. A blood test on Jones shows he lacks a common enzyme that would have helped his body metabolize nerve gas, said Floyd. Haley conducted the research behind the enzyme theory. Jones, who says he was physically and sexually abused growing up in a household of 12 children, joined the Army after graduating from a Chicago high school. He became a paratrooper with the Army Airborne Rangers and led his platoon into a risky combat jump in Grenada when the United States invaded in 1983. Later, his Gulf War service earned him a promotion to master sergeant and a coveted Meritorious Service Award. Floyd said evidence that came to light only after Jones' trial shows he suffered severe brain damage from nerve gas exposure. During his trial, defense experts testified Jones suffered brain damage from abuse as a child and post-traumatic stress from his combat tours. In December 2000, the Pentagon informed Jones that he, along with about 130,000 other soldiers, may have been exposed to low levels of nerve gas wafting from a weapons depot troops destroyed near the southern Iraqi city of Khamisiyah in March 1991. Copyright 2003 The Associated Press.
Jones, a decorated Gulf War veteran, received a fraction of the attention given to those cases.
As the death chamber curtain opened at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Jones looked toward the witnesses he had invited and mouthed the words, "I love you."
Draped with a white sheet and strapped to a hospital table, he could see his four supporters and loved ones and the eight members of the media.
He could not see the McBride family, hidden behind a one-way glass, and did not acknowledge them.
Jones first recited Psalm 118:18: "The Lord hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death."
voice, he then began singing the hymn "Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross,"
-- "In the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever 'til my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river."
A Bureau of Prisons official cut into his singing to read the charges of which Jones was convicted.
Jones kept on singing until U.S. Marshal Jim Kennedy gave the final go-ahead for the execution. The speaker from the death chamber was turned off, but Jones continued to sing.
At 7:06 a.m., an official announced that the first of three drugs had been administered.
Jones' eyes froze open, staring blankly. His lips remained parted, as if halted in midsong.
At 7:07 a.m., the second drug was administered. He was pronounced dead a minute later, after the third drug -- which stopped his heart -- had been administered.
Monday, the Supreme Court refused to block the execution, and President
Bush denied Jones' clemency petition.
The petition claimed Jones suffered brain damage and a change in personality after being exposed to sarin nerve gas during the 1991 war.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Pierce, who prosecuted Jones, dismissed his claims.
"It is an insult to the thousands and thousands of people who went over there and did their patriotic duty, came back and are law-abiding citizens," Pierce said.
Jones' attorney, Tim Floyd, said his client had hoped Bush would intervene.
"It is a cruel irony," Floyd said, "that on the day we mobilize for war in Iraq, the life of Sergeant Louis Jones Jr. -- a consummate soldier -- was ended at the hands of the government he proudly served."
Jones spent the early morning meeting with his daughter, 22-year-old Barbara Jones, according to Floyd. She did not witness the execution. His last meal consisted of peaches, nectarines and plums.
"He died with a song of praise to God on his lips," said Floyd, who witnessed the execution.
After the execution, 10 relatives and friends of Tracie McBride, wearing badges with her picture on them, addressed the media.
"The tears we have shed today are not for Louis Jones," said Tracie's sister, Stacie McBride. "They are for Tracie and for Tracie alone."
Stacie McBride, 24, who hopes to become a criminal prosecutor, said she was shocked that Jones did not apologize to the family.
"He did not even acknowledge us," she said. "The whole thing was very self-serving. It was unbelievable."
In a statement later read by his attorney, Jones said: "I accept full responsibility for the pain, anguish and the suffering I caused the McBrides for having taken Tracie from them."
Jones served in the Army for 22 years before retiring with the rank of master sergeant in 1993.
In 2000, the Pentagon sent Jones a letter telling him he had been exposed to chemical agents when the Army demolished a munitions plant in Khamisiyah, Iraq.
Jones' family will claim his body after the Vigo County coroner releases it.
Barred from burial in a veterans cemetery, Jones will be buried in a Chicago cemetery instead. Fears that McVeigh, a fellow Gulf War veteran, might be buried in a military cemetery led to a 1997 law prohibiting the honor for people convicted of capital crimes.
"Now another family has been devastated," said Jones' minister, the Rev. J. Jason Fry, an execution witness. "A daughter has lost her father. Grandchildren will never know their grandfather."
The McBride family said their healing has just begun.
"Today was a day of justice for Tracie," said her mother, Irene McBride, Centerville, Minn. "It's been a long eight years, and the healing process is not over."