The Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty for a Florida man convicted of murdering a Bartlett couple in their home in 2003.
During a second trial in 2015, a jury found Henry Lee Jones guilty of premeditated murder in the deaths of Clarence and Lillian James. He was sentenced to death for the killings.
82-year-old Clarence James and his 67-year-old wife Lillian were found strangled with their throats slashed at their home on Bartlett Boulevard in August 2003. Jones once lived near Bartlett, and was arrested three weeks later in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale.
Jones had been convicted and sentenced to death in 2009, but the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2014.
Jones filed appeals after the second conviction and sentencing, which were upheld by the Court of Criminal Appeals and now the Tennessee Supreme Court.
From the Tennessee Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court, which is required to review all death penalty cases, also considered other issues on appeal, including whether the defendant was unconstitutionally denied the right to counsel, whether the trial court properly admitted the former testimony of a witness upon a determination that the witness was “unavailable,” whether the evidence introduced at trial was sufficient to convict the defendant, and whether the trial court erred when it denied the appointment of a mitigation expert. The Court also conducted a required review of Jones’ death sentences.
The Court held that the trial court did not err in denying the defendant’s motion for mistrial based upon Jones’ own ineffectiveness in representing himself or in denying Jones’ motion to appoint a second attorney. Furthermore, the Court found no error on the part of the trial court on a number of evidentiary issues raised by Jones. Next, the Supreme Court determined that the evidence introduced at trial was sufficient to support Jones’ convictions for the premeditated murder of both victims.
Under the Court’s mandatory review of Jones’ death sentences, the Court determined that the evidence presented by the State supported all of the aggravating circumstances applied by the jury. Additionally, given that Jones waived any presentation of mitigating circumstances, the Court agreed with the jury that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstance in this case. Finally, the Court determined that the death sentences were not disproportionate to sentences imposed in other similar cases.
In her concurring opinion, Justice Sharon G. Lee agreed with the Court’s outcome, but stated she believed that when reviewing whether a death sentence is disproportionate to similar cases, the Court should not limit its review solely to cases in which the death penalty was imposed, but should review all first degree murder cases in which life imprisonment or a sentence of death was imposed. Using that analysis, she also concluded that the defendant’s sentence of death was not excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases.
Oral arguments for this case were heard as part of the Court’s S.C.A.L.E.S. (Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students) project at Lipscomb University during the American Legion Auxiliary Volunteer Girls State program. To read the majority opinion in State of Tennessee v. Henry Lee Jones, authored by Chief Justice Jeff Bivins, and the concurring opinion by Justice Sharon G. Lee, go to the opinions section of TNCourts.gov.
Jones remains the suspect in another similar murder in 2002 in Fort Lauderdale. Jones Was also convicted and sentenced to death in a 2003 Melbourne, Florida killing.