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Donald JONES

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery - Drugs
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: March 6, 1993
Date of arrest: 3 days after
Date of birth: November 25, 1966
Victim profile: Dorothy Knuckles (his grandmother)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: St. Louis County, Missouri, USA
Status: Executed by lethal injection in Missouri on April 27, 2005
 
 
 
 
 

United States Court of Appeals
For the Eighth Circuit

 

opinion 02-1132

 
 
 
 
 
 

Summary:

Jones went to the home of his grandmother, Dorothy Knuckles, around midnight to get some money to buy crack cocaine.

Knuckles let him in and when Jones asked her for money, she refused and started lecturing Jones about his drinking and use of cocaine.

Jones went downstairs to the kitchen, picked up a butcher block that contained knives, hid it behind him and went upstairs.

His grandmother started lecturing him again, and Jones hit her several times with the butcher block while she screamed.

Jones apparently became afraid that the neighbors might hear her screaming, picked up a knife that had fallen out of the butcher block and stabbed her until she stopped screaming and fell back onto her bed.

Jones took his grandmotherís car keys, money, and VCR, and he drove off in her car. Jones purchased some drugs, sold the VCR and rented out the car to get money to but drugs.

The grandmotherís body was discovered two days later. Upon questioning, Jones admitted the murder, blaming the "monster" of crack cocaine.

Citations:

Jones v. State, 865 S.W.2d 758 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993) (Postconviction).
Jones v. Luebbers, 359 F.3d 1005 (8th Cir. 2004) (Habeas)

Final Meal:

Chicken strips, coleslaw, two orders of fries, pizza and apple crisp with ice cream.

Final Words:

Jones' final statement, written in his own hand: "Praise God! Every day is a day to give the Lord thanks for all He's done! To my Beautiful Family, Friends, and all those whose been in prayer, in thought and support, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. To my Family, you will never truely know how your love, prayers, and forgiveness has sustained me all these years, to all my friends and supporters, especially my Beautiful Angels at St. Louis University, your courage and conviction is inspiring, keep the sturggle alive. To my mother who truly has been hurt the most, your love and strength I carry with me always. Take care of my son. I"m finally free and I'm going home to grandmother now. I love you all and God Bless. Donnie."

ClarkProsecutor.org

 
 

State of Missouri v. Donald Jones

979 S.W.2d 171 (Mo.banc 1998)

Websolutions.learfiel.com

Donald Jones was executed at 12:07 a.m., April 27, 2005.

Case Facts:

On March 6, 1993, Donald Jones went to his grandmotherís house around midnight to get some money to buy crack cocaine. When Jones arrived, the grandmother, Dorothy Knuckles, let him in, and they went to her bedroom on the second floor. While in the bedroom Jones asked the grandmother for money. She refused and started lecturing Jones about his drinking and use of cocaine.

Jones went downstairs to the kitchen, picked up a butcher block that contained knives, hid it behind him and went upstairs. His grandmother started lecturing him again, and Jones hit her several times with the butcher block while she screamed.

Jones apparently became afraid that the neighbors might hear her screaming, picked up a knife that had fallen out of the butcher block and stabbed her until she stopped screaming and fell back onto her bed.

Jones took his grandmotherís car keys, money, and VCR, and he drove off in her car. Jones purchased some drugs, sold the VCR and rented out the car to get money to but drugs.

The grandmotherís body was discovered on March 8, 1993, by her son.

On March 9, 1993, the police went to Jonesí place of work to question him. Jones was not under arrest at this time, and he agreed to follow the police to the homicide office.

After some conversations at the office, Jones became a suspect and was informed of his Miranda rights. Jones then said, "Itís the monster inside of me." He explained that the monster inside him was the crack cocaine that had caused him to kill his grandmother. He gave an audiotape statement of the above facts on how he killed his grandmother.

Final Statement by Donald Jones:

Praise God! Every day is a day to give the Lord thanks for all He's done! To my Beautiful Family, Friends, and all those whose been in prayer, in thought and support, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. To my Family, you will never truely know how your love, prayers, and forgiveness has sustained me all these years, to all my friends and supporters, especially my Beautiful Angels at St. Louis University, your courage and conviction is inspiring, keep the sturggle alive. To my mother who truly has been hurt the most, your love and strength I carry with me always. Take care of my son. I"m finally free and I'm going home to grandmother now. I love you all and God Bless. Donnie

Legal Chronology

1993
03/07 - Donald Jones murders and robs Dorothy Knuckles in St. Louis, Missouri.

1994
06/06 - Jones goes on trial for First Degree Murder and ARmed Criminal Action in the Circuit Court of St. Louis city. On June 16, 1994, Jones is found guilt of both counts and the jury recommends a sentence of death for the murder and Life for the Armed Criminal Action.

07/22 - Trial court sentences Jones to death.             

1995
03/01 - Jones files a post-conviction relief motion in the circuit court.

1997
10/22 - Circuit court denies Jones' post-conviction relief motion.

1998
11/03 - The Missouri Supreme Court affirms Jones' conviction and sentence. State. v. Jones, 979 S.W. 2d 171 (Mo.banc 1998)

1999
01/19 - The United States Supreme Court denies Jones petition for writ of certiorari. Jones v. Missouri, 525 U.S. 1112 (1999).

2000      
01/18 - Jones files petition for writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court.

2001
10/01 - The United States District Court of Appeals affirms the District Court's denial of Jones' petition for writ of habeas corpus.

2004
03/03 - The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the District Court's denial of Jones' petition for write of habeas corpus. Jones v. Leubbers, 359 F.3d 1005 (8th Cir. 2004)
12/06 - The United States Supreme Court denies Jones' petition for writ of certiorari. Jones v. Roper, 04-6756.

2005
01/21 - State files motion to set execution date wiht the Missouri Supreme Court.
03/28 - Missouri Supreme kCourt sets Jones' execution date for April 27, 2005.

 
 

Activists weep as murderer dies; Blunt defends execution

By Tim O'Neil - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

04/27/2005

Bonne Terre, Mo. -- Covered to his neck by a sheet, Donald Jones looked toward his family through thick glass and tried to speak. The first of the lethal drugs left him motionless. Relatives could be heard weeping. He never moved again. Word of his death came over officers' radios in five minutes. On a grass field outside the prison, many in a crowd of 120 protesters held votive candles and prayed. College students huddled and hugged. A few wept.

Jones, 38, was pronounced dead at 12:07 a.m. Wednesday in the new death chamber at the state prison here, 60 miles south of St. Louis. He was condemned for murdering his grandmother, Dorothy Knuckles, in her home in St. Louis 12 years ago because she refused to give him money for drugs.

Jones was the 63rd man put to death in Missouri since 1989, when the state resumed carrying out the ultimate punishment under current U.S. Supreme Court rules. His case was unusual because his family fought for years to keep him from being executed for killing one of their own.

Many of the relatively large crowd of protesters were students from St. Louis University who were inspired by Jones' case to organize a group against executions. A few visited him during his final days. "We loved him. He was so sweet and gentle," said Anna Calhoun, a sophomore who saw him Monday.

The murder "was a horrific mistake that he admitted to. This just caused more suffering for his family. There was no need for it."

The courts and Gov. Matt Blunt, reviewing the case and the brutality of the murder, were not so moved. The federal appeals court in St. Louis and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Jones' last stand of appeals, and Blunt declined to use his power to reduce the sentence.

Shortly after Jones was pronounced dead, prison spokesman John Fougere read a statement from Blunt. "I carefully reviewed applications for clemency," the statement says in part. "Donald Jones was given several opportunities to talk about the heinous acts he committed before a jury of his peers and judges at every level, all of whom affirmed this just punishment."

Fougere also released copies of Jones' final statement, written in his own hand. "To my beautiful family, friends and all those whose (sic) been in prayer, in thought and support, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart," he wrote. "... especially my beautiful angels at St. Louis University, your courage and conviction is inspiring... "I'm finally free and I'm going home to grandmother now. I love you all and God bless. Donnie."

As protesters lingered outside in the 40-degree chill, the Rev. Jim Flanigan, a deacon at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Webster Groves, led the prayers. "Father, forgive Donald, give him a kindly welcome and cleanse him of all sins," Flanigan said.

Jones' relatives joined them outside and directed their emotions against Blunt. "The governor didn't listen to our voices. He didn't hear the family," said an uncle, Matthew Knuckles, of Rock Hill. "This was so senseless. I just watched my little nephew die."

Jones was the first to be executed in the new death chamber of the Eastern Diagnostic Reception and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, which has replaced the old chamber at the Potosi Correctional Center, 15 miles away. Condemned prisoners still will be housed in Potosi and moved to Bonne Terre for execution.

The next person scheduled to be executed is Vernon Brown, also of St. Louis, who was sentenced to die for murdering a neighbor, Janet Perkins, 9, whom he lured into his apartment as she walked home from school in 1986. The execution date is May 18. He also faces a separate death sentence for strangling Synetta Ford, 19, in 1985.

 
 

ProDeathPenalty.com

A Missouri inmate sentenced to death for fatally beating and stabbing his grandmother more than 30 times to get money for crack cocaine says that woman would not want him executed.

Facing scheduled death by injection April 27, Donald Jones, 38, absorbed another legal setback this week, when the Missouri Supreme Court refused to intervene. Jones said he expected to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Jones' family - including 2 uncles, the sons of slain Dorothy Knuckles - wants Gov. Matt Blunt to spare Jones' life and commute his sentence to a life term without parole, arguing that the murdered 68-year-old grandmother wouldn't seek vengeance against the grandson. "Just having their love and their forgiveness has been a tremendous comfort for me," Jones said Thursday by telephone from the maximum-security Potosi Correctional Center, insisting that "I can say most confidentally" Knuckles - a Christian - wouldn't be vengeful against the grandson who killed her. "My grandmother and my family were all raised in church, strong Christians," he said. "I know for a fact she wouldn't want this at all."

Jones said he hasn't circled his scheduled execution date on his calendar. "The 27th will be here when it gets here," he said. "The only thing I can control is today; that's always been my approach to the situation. "I have all the faith and know God can turn this around in no time." Blunt has said through a spokeswoman that he planned to review the case, having asked the state Board of Probation and Parole to offer a recommendation. Messages were left Friday with Blunt's office and with Jones' Columbia attorney.

Jones said he was high on PCP-laced crack cocaine when he went to his grandmother's St. Louis home in March 1993 to ask the woman for more money for drugs.

When Knuckles lectured him about his abuse of drugs and refused to give him cash, Jones first beat her with a butcher's block of knives, then repeatedly stabbed her. Jones took the grandmother's videocassette recorder, some money and the keys to her car, then sold the VCR and rented out the vehicle to get 2 pieces of crack cocaine.

Jones was arrested 3 days later. Jurors convicted him in June 1994 after just 3 hours of deliberations, recommending the death sentence for 1st-degree murder and a life term for armed criminal action. The next month, a judge condemned Jones despite pleas by his family - including the victim's sons - to spare Jones' life and order him imprisoned for life without parole.

 
 

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Missouri - Donald Jones - April 27, 2005

The state of Missouri is scheduled to execute Donald Jones on April 27, 2005 for the March 1993 murder of Dorothy Knuckles in St. Louis County.

In the early morning hours of March 6, 1993, Jones arrived at the home of Knuckles, his grandmother, with the hope of obtaining money to fuel his addiction to crack-cocaine.

Intensely frustrated by his grandmotherís unwillingness to provide him with money and her stern criticism of his drug and alcohol dependency, Jones hit her with a butcher block. He then proceeded to stab her with a knife from the block, in a frantic attempt to silence her screaming.

After scrounging up money around the home, Jones took his grandmotherís VCR and car. He was arrested three days later for the murder and provided police with an audiotape confession.

At trial, Jones pled not guilty to murder in the first degree and armed criminal action. He was found guilty on both counts and sentenced to death for the murder conviction and life in prison for the armed criminal action conviction. Jones received the death penalty for Dorothy Knuckleís murder even though her family fervently objected to the imposition of the punishment.

Serious questions exist surrounding the trial judgeís ability to preside over Jonesí case with impartiality. The judge clearly possessed ill feelings towards one of Jonesí attorneys. Nevertheless, he refused to remove himself from the case. The judgeís possible bias against defense counsel may have prevented Jones from receiving a fair trial.

In the post conviction action that followed, Jonesí appellate counsel obtained affidavits from multiple psychologists and psychiatrists regarding Jonesí mental condition.

An affidavit signed by Dr. Richard Wetzel stated that he conducted a neuropsychological examination of Jones. Wetzel found Jones to suffer from brain defects that reduced Jonesí ability to control his behavior.

Dr. Rosalyn Schultz and Dr. Moisy Shopper both concluded in their affidavits that Jones might suffer from some form of dissociative disorder. And lastly, Dr. Robert Smith signed an affidavit in which he claimed that Jonesí drug and alcohol dependency might have impaired his ability to deliberate or plan the attack.

Unfortunately, Jonesí attorneys submitted these affidavits after a hearing had already been denied on a claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present mitigating evidence.

As a result, they were excluded from consideration by the court. Had they been submitted prior to the ruling and taken into full consideration, these affidavits might have ďlessened the degree of the offense, mitigated punishment, or both.Ē

The death penalty is never an acceptable recourse. It is particularly alarming in this case because the fairness of Jonesí trial has been put into question and potentially mitigating psychological and psychiatric evidence was not examined during the appeals process. The execution of Donald Jones should not proceed.

Please contact Governor Matt Blunt and urge him to halt this execution!

 
 

Inmate executed for slaying his grandmother

Springfield News-Leader

Associated Press April 27, 2005

Bonne Terre, Mo ó Over the past dozen years leading to his execution early this morning, Donald Jones had plenty of time for soul-searching about what he did to his grandmother, stabbing her more than 30 times because she wouldn't give him money for drugs. Images of the woman bloody and dead on her bed, eyes fixed and open, always haunted him.

But Jones said he eventually found peace, getting unwavering forgiveness from survivors of 68-year-old Dorothy Knuckles, whom they argued wouldn't want her grandson put to death. Hours before his execution, Jones declined a sedative routinely offered to condemned inmates in their final hours but rarely refused, a state Department of Corrections spokesman said.

Jones, 38, said he always loved his grandmother, blaming "the monster inside" him ó the cocaine he says he didn't know was laced with PCP ó for her death. As the nation's highest court and Missouri's highest officeholder refused to spare him, Jones had faith he'd rejoin his grandma.

Jones didn't go quietly. While strapped to the gurney, he mouthed inaudibly to his family, then toward the ceiling before losing consciousness as the first of three chemicals was pumped into his veins. Jones coughed four times and was dead within five minutes.

In his handwritten send-off that began with "Praise God!," Jones rejoiced: "I'm finally free and I'm going home to grandmother now."

Unified in support for Jones, Knuckles' survivors ó Jones' relatives, too ó left vacant the area designated for witnesses for the victim, instead sitting together to watch Jones die from the space set aside for the inmate's family. There, they quietly wept. "To my family, you will never truly know how your love, prayers and forgiveness has sustained me all these years," Jones wrote. "To my mother, who truly has been hurt the most, your love and strength I carry with me always."

Jones became the 63rd Missouri inmate put to death ó all by injection ó since the state resumed executions in 1989. He was the first executed at the 2-year-old, maximum-security prison in this eastern Missouri town, about 60 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt and the U.S. Supreme Court both refused to step in Tuesday on Jones' behalf, despite pleas by the victim's two sons ó Jones' uncles ó who said Knuckles wouldn't have sought vengeance. Blunt ó for the second time in little more than a month ó refused to grant Jones clemency despite a recommendation to do so by the state parole board.

The Republican who took office in January voiced sympathy for family of the victim and killer, but he described the murder as "terrible" and the death sentence "the only appropriate punishment." "I pray that God will bless the soul and memory of Dorothy Knuckles," Blunt said in a statement read after Jones' death.

In his final hours, Jones told The Associated Press by telephone that Blunt's refusal of clemency "goes against everything meant to bring closure and justice to this family." "The irony of it is that if the people who are impacted the most ó my family ó can go through everything they did and still forgive me, love me and support me, how can the governor contradict that?" Jones said. "They can never, ever after this point come on TV saying `We're doing this for the victim's family.' "It's just unfortunate and sad that politics and this sentence find themselves intertwined."

Jones said he was high on PCP-laced crack cocaine when he went to Knuckles' St. Louis home in March 1993 to ask her for more money to buy drugs. When Knuckles lectured him about his abuse of drugs and refused to give him cash, Jones first beat her with a butcher's block of knives, then stabbed her repeatedly to silence her screams.

Jones took the grandmother's videocassette recorder, some money and the keys to her car, then sold the VCR and rented out the vehicle to get two pieces of crack cocaine.

Jurors convicted him in June 1994 and recommended the death sentence, which a judge imposed the next month despite pleas by his Knuckles' sons to spare Jones' life and order him imprisoned for life without parole.

Jones declined a prosecutor's offer to waive seeking the death penalty in exchange for his pleading guilty to first-degree murder and agreeing to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Jones opted to take his chances with jurors, convinced the killing was a second-degree murder not punishable by execution but carrying the prospect that he one day would be free.

 
 

Man Who Killed Grandma Executed in Mo.

FoxNews.com

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

BONNE TERRE, Mo. ó  An inmate who fatally stabbed his grandmother more than 30 times to get cash for crack cocaine was executed early Wednesday in Missouri's new death chamber.

Donald Jones, 38, died by injection at 12:07 a.m. at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center. Jones' relatives had asked Gov. Matt Blunt to spare his life, arguing the 68-year-old victim would not have sought vengeance against her grandson.

Blunt declined to intervene Tuesday, for the second time in a little more than a month refusing to grant clemency to a condemned inmate despite a recommendation to do so by the state parole board.

In a handwritten statement that began "Praise God!" Jones thanked his family and friends for their support.

"To my family, you will never truly know how your love, prayers and forgiveness has sustained me all these years," Jones wrote. "To my mother, who truly has been hurt the most, your love and strength I carry with me always."

The U.S. Supreme Court also refused Tuesday to step in on behalf of Jones, who just hours before his execution said "spiritually, I am totally prepared" to die.

"I'm really at a good place right now. I feel good that if (death) is my plan, I'm going to see my grandmother," Jones told The Associated Press by telephone.

Jones became the 63rd inmate put to death ó all by injection ó since the state resumed executions in 1989, with most of those executions carried out at the Potosi Correctional Center, about 25 miles west of Bonne Terre.

Jones said he was high on PCP-laced crack cocaine when he went to grandmother Dorothy Knuckles' St. Louis home in March 1993 to ask her for more money for drugs.

When Knuckles lectured him about his abuse of drugs and refused to give him cash, Jones beat her with a butcher's block of knives, then stabbed her to death.

Jurors convicted him in June 1994 after just three hours of deliberations, recommending the death sentence. The next month the judge condemned him, despite pleas from his family to spare Jones' life and imprison him for life without parole.

 
 

Executions trigger protest

Despite calls for an end to the death penalty, Donald Jones was executed this morning

By Joe Meyer - Columbia Missourian

April 27, 2005

The second execution in as many months, after more than a year without one, has some Columbia protestors discouraged about their attempts to end capital punishment in the state.

Twenty people showed up at the Boone County Courthouse Tuesday afternoon to hold signs protesting the execution of a man who was convicted of killing his grandmother for drug money. It was one of many demonstrations scheduled around the state.

Donald Jones, 38, was executed early today at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre. Jones was convicted of killing his grandmother, 68-year-old Dorothy Knuckles, in St. Louis in 1993.

The execution came a week after the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation announced that 50 local businesses had joined them in asking the Missouri General Assembly to consider placing a moratorium on capital punishment. Early Tuesday, Gov. Matt Blunt ó for the second time in little more than a month ó refused to grant clemency despite a recommendation to do so by the state parole board. The Republican expressed sympathy, but he described the murder as ďterrible.Ē

Jones was the 63rd inmate put to death by the state since Missouri reinstated the death penalty in 1989, but only the second prisoner executed since 2003.

On March 16, Stanley Hall was put to death for murdering a woman and throwing her into the Mississippi River in St. Louis in 1994. Another execution is scheduled for next month.

Jeff Stack, coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation, said he is scared that the state is returning to the old way of handling executions. ďThis pace of once a month was sadly the norm a couple years ago,Ē Stack said. Protestor John Schuder said that though every execution saddens him, he will continue to show up and protest every one.

Tuesday was the first time Ivy White had joined the group to demonstrate. She said she hopes people driving and walking by gained a different perspective. ďMaybe someone will have an Ďah-haí moment,Ē White said. ďThat would be great.Ē

Jonesí family had hoped Blunt would commute the prisonerís sentence to a life term without parole, arguing that Knuckles would not seek vengeance against her grandson. ďWe donít have the death penalty so that families can feel a sense of vengeance,Ē Blunt said. ďWe have the death penalty because we believe as a society, we believe as a state and we believe as a people that some crimes are so horrific that the only appropriate punishment is the death penalty.Ē

Jones said he was high on PCP-laced crack cocaine when he went to his grandmotherís St. Louis home in March of 1993 to ask the woman for more money for drugs.

After she refused, Jones first beat her with a butcherís block of knives, then repeatedly stabbed her. Jones took the grandmotherís videocassette recorder, some money and the keys to her car, then sold the VCR and rented out the vehicle to get two pieces of crack cocaine.

MISSOURI EXECUTIONS

Missouri has executed 63 people, all by injection, since the death penalty was reinstated in 1989.

The stateís last execution was Stanley Hall, who had been convicted in the 1994 murder of a St. Louis woman, on March 16 at the Potosi Correctional Center.

This morningís execution was the first in the new facility in Bonne Terre.

Vernon Brown, who was convicted of strangling a 9-year-old girl to death in 1986, is scheduled to be executed May 18.

 
 

Missouri Executes Man Who Killed His Grandmother

Reuters News

Apr 27, 2005

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (Reuters) - The state of Missouri on Wednesday executed a man convicted of killing his grandmother because she would not give him money to buy crack cocaine.

Donald Jones, 38, was pronounced dead at 12:07 a.m. CDT following an injection of lethal chemicals, officials at the state's new death chamber at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre said.

In a final statement, Jones said: "To my family you will never truly know how your love, prayers and forgiveness have sustained me all these years. To my mother who truly has been hurt the most your love and strength I'll carry with me always. Take care of my son, I'm finally free and going home to grandmother now."

The death chamber at Bonne Terre, which is outfitted with one-way glass and separate viewing rooms for families of the victim and the condemned, replaces the facility at the nearby Potosi Correctional Center some 60 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Gov. Matt Blunt refused to grant clemency despite pleas to spare Jones' life from his family, including victim Dorothy Knuckles' son Matthew Knuckles, who is also Jones' uncle. "It was a violent crime, and we have capital punishment in our state because we believe some crimes are so horrific and so terrible that the only reasonable penalty ... is indeed the death penalty," Blunt said. It was the second time this year Blunt disagreed with recommendations to grant clemency from the state's Board of Probation and Parole.

Jones went to his grandmother's home in March 1993 to beg for money to buy drugs, but she refused, delivering a lecture that he said enraged him. He hit her in the head with a butcher block containing knives, then stabbed her to silence her screams. He stole money and her car, which he lent out in exchange for two rocks of crack cocaine.

He pleaded not guilty at his 1994 trial, hoping for a lesser conviction, but was sentenced to death.

Jones' was the 17th execution in the United States this year and the 961st since capital punishment was restored in 1976.

He was the 63rd Missouri inmate put to death since the state resumed executions in 1989. His final meal consisted of chicken strips, coleslaw, two orders of fries, pizza and apple crisp with ice cream.

 
 

Missouri inmate executed for slaying his grandmother

By Jim Suhr - Kansas City Star

April 27, 2005

BONNE TERRE, Mo. (Associated Press) - Over the past dozen years leading to his execution early Wednesday, Donald Jones had plenty of time for soul-searching about what he did to his grandmother, stabbing her more than 30 times because she wouldn't give him money for drugs. Images of the woman bloody and dead on her bed, eyes fixed and open, always haunted him.

But Jones said he eventually found peace, getting unwavering forgiveness from survivors of 68-year-old Dorothy Knuckles, whom they argued wouldn't want her grandson put to death. Hours before his execution, Jones declined a sedative routinely offered to condemned inmates in their final hours but rarely refused, a state Department of Corrections spokesman said.

Jones, 38, said he always loved his grandmother, blaming "the monster inside" him - the cocaine he says he didn't know was laced with PCP - for her death. As the nation's highest court and Missouri's highest officeholder refused to spare him, Jones had faith he'd rejoin his grandma.

Jones didn't go quietly. While strapped to the gurney, he mouthed inaudibly to his family, then toward the ceiling before losing consciousness as the first of three chemicals was pumped into his veins. Jones coughed four times and was dead within five minutes. In his handwritten send-off that began with "Praise God!," Jones rejoiced: "I'm finally free and I'm going home to grandmother now."

Unified in support for Jones, Knuckles' survivors - Jones' relatives, too - left vacant the area designated for witnesses for the victim, instead sitting together to watch Jones die from the space set aside for the inmate's family. There, they quietly wept. "To my family, you will never truly know how your love, prayers and forgiveness has sustained me all these years," Jones wrote. "To my mother, who truly has been hurt the most, your love and strength I carry with me always."

Jones became the 63rd Missouri inmate put to death - all by injection - since the state resumed executions in 1989. He was the first executed at the 2-year-old, maximum-security prison in this eastern Missouri town, about 60 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt and the U.S. Supreme Court both refused to step in Tuesday on Jones' behalf, despite pleas by the victim's two sons - Jones' uncles - who said Knuckles wouldn't have sought vengeance. Blunt - for the second time in little more than a month - refused to grant Jones clemency despite a recommendation to do so by the state parole board.

The Republican who took office in January voiced sympathy for family of the victim and killer, but he described the murder as "terrible" and the death sentence "the only appropriate punishment." "I pray that God will bless the soul and memory of Dorothy Knuckles," Blunt said in a statement read after Jones' death.

In his final hours, Jones told The Associated Press by telephone that Blunt's refusal of clemency "goes against everything meant to bring closure and justice to this family." "The irony of it is that if the people who are impacted the most - my family - can go through everything they did and still forgive me, love me and support me, how can the governor contradict that?" Jones said. "They can never, ever after this point come on TV saying `We're doing this for the victim's family.' "It's just unfortunate and sad that politics and this sentence find themselves intertwined."

Jones said he was high on PCP-laced crack cocaine when he went to Knuckles' St. Louis home in March 1993 to ask her for more money to buy drugs.

When Knuckles lectured him about his abuse of drugs and refused to give him cash, Jones first beat her with a butcher's block of knives, then stabbed her repeatedly to silence her screams.

Jones took the grandmother's videocassette recorder, some money and the keys to her car, then sold the VCR and rented out the vehicle to get two pieces of crack cocaine.

Jurors convicted him in June 1994 and recommended the death sentence, which a judge imposed the next month despite pleas by his Knuckles' sons to spare Jones' life and order him imprisoned for life without parole.

Jones declined a prosecutor's offer to waive seeking the death penalty in exchange for his pleading guilty to first-degree murder and agreeing to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Jones opted to take his chances with jurors, convinced the killing was a second-degree murder not punishable by execution but carrying the prospect that he one day would be free.

 
 

Inmate Talks Before He's Executed For 1993 Murder Of His Grandmother

By Jeff Small - KSDK-TV.com

April 27, 2005

(KSDK) - A St. Louis man was executed early Wednesday morning, for the 1993 murder of his grandmother. Donald Jones stabbed the woman more than 30 times because she refused to give him money to buy drugs.

Two and a half hours before the execution, Donald Jones talked with NewsChannel 5. He said he was sorry for the murder he committed, and sorry for the pain his death would bring his family, "The last twelve years have been so tough for me. In spite of receiving God's forgiveness as well as my family's, I felt so totally unworthy of such love. Saying I'm sorry barely scratches the surface of what I've put them through. I just love them so much because from Day 1 they've been in my corner." To hear the entire interview, click on the video link to the right.

The legal appeals were exhausted earlier Tuesday, and Governor Matt Blunt refused to commute Jones's sentence to life in prison, despite that recommendation from state corrections officials. "The only thing I can say to (the governor) is 'Change your mind. Help us out. Change your mind.' That's the only thing I can say," according to Jones's uncle, Matthew Knuckles.

Donald Jones is the first inmate put to death at the new execution chamber in Bonne Terre. Corrections Department spokesman John Fougere explained the process Tuesday night, "Eventually he is moved into the execution room and placed on the gurney. And as soon as we get the word from the governor, and we also hear from the attorney general's office that there are no legal impediments, then we preceed."

Tuesday night, security was tight outside the already heavily guarded maximum security prison. Inside, there were last minute conversations with Matthew Knuckle's nephew, Donald Jones. "We let him talk. We just let him know that we love him. We told him to tell Mom hi," said Knuckles.

It was an emotional reminder about the 1993 murder of Dorothy Knuckles. She was beaten and stabbed by Donald Jones, who was her grandson.

After the killing, Jones rented out his grandmother's car and used the payments to buy drugs. That death is now forgiven by family, "We've had enough grief," said Knuckles.

 
 

St. Louis man awaiting execution

Victim's sons have pleaded for mercy for man who killed his grandmother for drug money

By Jim Suhr - Springfield News-Leader

Associated Press - April 24, 2005

St. Louis ó Never shy about speaking her mind, 68-year-old Dorothy Knuckles let grandson Donald Jones have it the night he came by her St. Louis home, high on crack cocaine dipped in PCP.

Jones calls it that "crazy night" in March 1993, the first time he ever asked for money from the grandmother who for years harped on him about his abuse of drugs and booze.

Knowing what Jones wanted the cash for, Knuckles rebuffed him and lectured him some more. Jones got her money anyway ó after beating her with a butcher block of knives, then stabbing her more than 30 times to silence her screams.

Despite pleas for mercy from Knuckles' sons ó Jones' uncles ó Jones was sentenced to death. And early Wednesday, barring intervention by Gov. Matt Blunt or the U.S. Supreme Court, Jones will become the first person put to death by injection in Missouri's new execution chamber at a prison in Bonne Terre.

Jones says his late grandmother, never vengeful, wouldn't want him to die. As Blunt and the Supreme Court weigh the matter, Jones thanks relatives for their unflinching backing. "Just having their love and their forgiveness has been a tremendous comfort for me," Jones said in a phone interview from the Potosi Correctional Center, home to Missouri's former death chamber. "My grandmother and my family were all raised in church, strong Christians. I know for a fact she wouldn't want this at all. But "in the end, God always has the last word."

Blunt expects the state Board of Probation and Parole to offer a recommendation Monday or Tuesday, "allowing time for the judicial process to carry through," spokeswoman Jessica Robinson said. "I hope it's very compelling to the governor's office that the victims don't want death" for Jones, said Bill Swift, a public defender in Columbia, serving as Jones' appellate attorney. "They always have felt very strongly that Donald Jones should not be executed. It would only cause more pain, anguish and dismay. Why would we want to do that to them?"

Jones could become the 63rd Missouri inmate to be put to death ó all by injection ó since the state reinstated the death penalty in 1989. "This is something we really weren't expecting to happen this soon," Jones said. "The only thing I can control is today; that's always been my approach to the situation."

Jones wouldn't be staring down the death chamber had he accepted a prosecutor's offer by pleading guilty to first-degree murder and agreeing to spend the rest of his life behind bars, the death penalty off the table. But Jones opted to take his chances with jurors, thinking the killing was a second-degree murder not punishable by execution ó but carrying the prospect that Jones one day would be free. "In a lot of ways, I still feel what we did was good," Jones said. "I don't think any of us wanted this result, but that's done. I've spent the last 12 years wishing and just hoping, want-ing so badly to undo what I can't undo. I've struggled the last 12 years forgiving myself."

After just three hours of deliberations, Jones was convicted in June 1994 of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. He was sentenced to death despite pleas by his family ó including the victim's sons ó to spare him. A prosecutor countered that the victim's family "cannot be objective and nobody expects them to be," and that "if the killer of Dorothy Knuckles was a stranger they'd be sitting on this side of the courtroom."

 
 

Supreme Court of Missouri

State of Missouri, Respondent,
v.
Donald Jones, Appellant.

Case Number 77168

Handdown Date: 03/11/1998

Appeal From Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Hon. Charles D. Kitchin and Hon. John J. Riley

Michael A. Wolff, Judge

Opinion:

Donald Jones was convicted of murder in the first degree and armed criminal action. He was sentenced to death on the murder charge and to life in prison on the armed criminal action charge. Jones filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 29.15, which was overruled. In a consolidated appeal to this Court, Jones raises twenty-one points of error. We affirm.

I. Facts (FN1)

On March 6, 1993, appellant, Donald Jones, went to his grandmotherís house around midnight to get some money to buy crack cocaine. When Jones arrived, the grandmother, Dorothy Knuckles, let him in, and they went to her bedroom on the second floor. While in the bedroom Jones asked the grandmother for money. She refused and started lecturing Jones about his drinking and use of cocaine.

Jones went downstairs to the kitchen, picked up a butcher block that contained knives, hid it behind him and went upstairs. His grandmother started lecturing him again, and Jones hit her several times with the butcher block while she screamed. Jones apparently became afraid that the neighbors might hear her screaming, picked up a knife that had fallen out of the butcher block and stabbed her until she stopped screaming and fell back onto her bed.

Jones took his grandmotherís car keys, money, and VCR, and he drove off in her car. Jones purchased some drugs, sold the VCR and rented out the car to get money to buy drugs.

The grandmotherís body was discovered on March 8, 1993, by her son. On March 9, 1993, the police went to Jonesí place of work to question him. Jones was not under arrest at this time, and he agreed to follow the police to the homicide office. After some conversations at the office, Jones became a suspect and was informed of his Miranda rights. Jones then said, "Itís the monster inside of me." He explained that the monster inside him was the crack cocaine that had caused him to kill his grandmother. He gave an audiotape statement of the above facts on how he killed his grandmother.

Jones was charged by indictment with murder in the first degree, robbery in the first degree, and two counts of armed criminal action. The case went to trial on two charges: murder in the first degree and one count of armed criminal action. The jury returned guilty verdicts on both counts and recommended death for murder and life in prison for armed criminal action, which the court imposed. Jones filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence or judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 29.15. The motion was overruled.

II. Prejudicial Penalty Argument

Jones contends that the trial court erred when it overruled defense counselís penalty phase objection to the prosecutorís argument: that if a stranger had killed Dorothy Knuckles, then her family would have wanted the state to seek the death penalty. Jones contends the argument constituted speculation, asserted facts not in evidence, was improper, and was contrary to the familyís beliefs and wishes. When the trial court allows argument over defense counselís objection, rulings are reversible only for abuse of discretion where argument was plainly unwarranted. State v. Hall, 955 S.W. 2d 198, 208 (Mo. banc 1997). Parties have a considerable latitude in arguing during the penalty phase of a first-degree murder case. Id. Moreover, a prosecutor may rebut defense counselís argument if the defense counsel opens the door to an otherwise questionable line of argument. See State v. Kenley, 952 S.W.2d 250, 272 (Mo. banc 1997).

In State v. Kenley, supra, the prosecutor rebutted defense counselís argument that the defendant apologized to a prison librarian for taking her hostage by arguing the defendant apologized because he knew the hostage incident would surface at trial and made a similar comment about defendantís improved behavior while incarcerated. Id. The Court stated that the comments were not improper. Id. In fact, "[d]efense counsel opened the door to this argument by inferring that Kenley [defendant] apologized or decreased the number of conduct violations because he had turned over a new leaf." Id. The Court further stated that: "[i]t was reasonable for the prosecutor to counter this argument with the fact that Kenley had other potential motives for his behavior." Id.

In the case before us, the defense counsel made the following statement:

His (Jones) family doesnít want him to die. His family wants him to live. They care about him and love him. Do you think thatís what Dorothy Knuckles would want based on what youíve heard about her. Do you think she would want you to take vengeance and kill her grandson.

The prosecutor in rebuttal made the following argument:

Now let me say something about the Knucklesí family. If there were more families like the Knucklesí family in this country we wouldnít have the problems we have. But they are not objective. They cannot be objective and nobody expects them to be. If the killer of Dorothy Knuckles was a stranger theyíd be sitting on this side of the courtroom.

DEFENSE COUNSEL: Objection, Your Honor. Thatís total speculation. Improper.

THE COURT: The objectionís overruled.

PROSECUTOR: --supporting us in asking for the death penalty. Families supporting us maybe even when itís -- or asking us to do it even when itís not justified. Families cannot be objective. Nobody expects them to be. You know about the Knucklesí family, and the question becomes of that family why is he sitting here. Coming from that kind of family and that kind of background why is he sitting here. He could have been anything he wanted. That family would have done anything for him. Why is he sitting here. Heís sitting here because one time he made a choice. He made a choice to turn his back on that family and abuse drugs....

The prosecutorís statement was not improper within the context in which it was made. It was in response to the defense counselís suggestion that the family opposes the death penalty for Jones. The prosecutor offered a common sense reply that perhaps the family is biased because Jones is a family member. In this situation the defendant may not provoke a reply and then assert error. State v. Roll, 942 S.W.2d 370, 378 (Mo. banc 1997). Furthermore, State v. Storey, 901 S.W.2d 889 (Mo. banc 1995), is inapplicable in this instance because the contexts were different, the opinions were more personalized and not based on evidence presented, and the comment was not in response to the defense counselís argument. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in overruling the defense counselís objection.

III. Whether the Trial Judge Could Fairly Serve

Jones argues that the trial judge erred in denying the motion to disqualify himself because of his longstanding animosity toward one of the defense attorneys. Jones also contends that the trial judge erred when he refused to allow the motion to disqualify him to be heard by another judge. The defense attorney entered her appearance as co-counsel in the case after the time had passed for the defendant to get an automatic change of judge under Rule 32.07. Thus, the two issues are whether the trial judge should have disqualified himself for cause and whether, in any event, that determination should have been made by a different judge.

Questions concerning a judgeís qualification to hear a case usually are not constitutional questions; rather, they are questions answered by common law, statute or the code of judicial conduct. State v. Nicklasson, 967 S.W.2d 596, 605 (Mo. banc 1998). Canon 3D(1) of Rule 2, the Code of Judicial Conduct, requires a judge to recuse himself in a proceeding where the judgeís impartiality might reasonably be questioned. In construing this provision, the test applied is "whether a reasonable person would have a factual basis to find an appearance of impropriety and thereby doubt the impartiality of the court." State v. Smulls, 935 S.W.2d 9, 17 (Mo. banc 1996). It is presumed that judges will not undertake to preside in a proceeding where they cannot be impartial. State ex rel. Ferguson v. Corrigan, 959 S.W.2d 113, 115 (Mo. banc 1997). The judge himself or herself is in the best position to decide whether recusal is necessary. Id. To qualify, the bias must come from an extrajudicial source that results in the judge forming an opinion on the merits based on something other than what the judge has learned from participation in the case. Nicklasson, supra.

In Nicklasson, the defendant claimed bias in the trial courtís decisions:

not to allow attorney participation in death-qualification voir dire; refusing to excuse for cause a venireperson who did not ultimately serve on the jury; to refer to some of the defense expert testimony as "junk science" (outside the presence of the jury); to express criticism of a member of the defense team; to comment that one defense witnessís testimony was "refreshing" and to state during the questioning of another defense witness "letís get on to something thatís going to assist this jury in making a decision" after overruling an objection by the state; and to "ridicule" penalty-phase witnesses.

Id. This Court concluded that none of the assertions rose to the level of bias or prejudice toward either party arising from an extrajudicial source and that none of the assertions supported a contention that the trial courtís conduct affected the jury in its fact determinations or sentence recommendation. Id.

Similarly, in the instant case, the record does not support a claim that the trial judgeís attitude towards defense co-counsel affected the jury in its fact determinations or sentence recommendation. There is only one place in the trial record that appellant can cite to support his claim that the trial judgeís bias affected the trial:

PROSECUTOR: So when youíre deliberating as a jury on guilt or punishment phase one must interact with his fellow jurors, and you may go down there at the first time you talk about it and some of you may be for death -

DEFENSE CO-COUNSEL: Judge, Iím going to object to this at this time. I think that Mr. Ravetta has already had the opportunity to discuss the law with people if there are specific questions that he has for individuals, but I think, first of all, heís improperly defining some things here and going over some things --

THE COURT: Letís go up here. Letís not make speeches in front of the jury. That isnít an objection, itís a speech.

(Counsel approached the bench and the following proceedings were had outside the hearing of the voir dire panel:)

THE COURT: I donít want any more objections made in the form of speeches, do you understand that. You are to come up here with a legal objection. You made a long speech in front of the jury with a deliberate attempt apparently to influence them. Make objections like that up here. Is that clear? Do you understand me?

DEFENSE CO-COUNSEL: Yes, Judge. I would also like to make a brief record at this point. It seems as if based on the Courtís tone and demeanor that it is angry with what I have just done.

THE COURT: I certainly am, because you have no business making a long, rambling speech and statement that was not in fact a legal objection in the presence of the jury. That kind of thing should be done at the bench.

DEFENSE CO-COUNSEL: I would also indicate for the record, first of all I was just trying to phrase the objection as well as I could under the circumstances; that I was not trying to influence the jury, that I was just trying to make an objection. And in addition to that I believe Mr. Ravetta made some speaking objections and was not treated in the same manner as I am right now for having made some speaking objections.

THE COURT: I donít think any of them were that long, that concise, and that detailed. That was in fact a speech. Now what is the specific objection to what?

DEFENSE CO-COUNSEL: Mr. Ravetta has already had the opportunity to make his -- to do his voir dire. Heís now having this detailed -- giving a detailed speech or lecture as to what deliberation means and even implying that deliberation means that you will change your mind as I think one juror seems to infer from what Mr. Ravetta says. I donít think itís proper and I think that heís already had his opportunity. If there are specific jurors that he feels the need to rehabilitate, but itís gone way beyond that to the point where he is really getting to do a second entire voir dire.

From the above record, it is not clear that the judgeís anger was shown toward defense co-counsel in his remarks in front of the jury, or whether the anger was shown only at the bench out of the juryís hearing. Furthermore, Jones does not allege facts to show that the judge was biased against him personally or against the merits of his case. It is relatively easy for a party in litigation to claim that he cannot get a fair trial because the judge dislikes his lawyer. We trust trial court judges in the first instance to discover whether such contentions are legitimate and to disqualify themselves in appropriate circumstances. Where as here the judge does not disqualify himself, we have only the record to review to determine whether this alleged animosity has in fact infected the trial with a bias whose source is extrajudicial. Upon this review, we are unable to find such bias manifested to the jury that would cause us to grant a new trial. The above-quoted portion of the trial transcript is the only portion of the record that Jones can cite to show judicial partiality, and plainly, no bias appears.

Jones further contends that the trial judge erred in hearing the motion for his own disqualification. If sufficient facts to require recusal are not known to the judge but are contained in an affidavit in support of a motion to disqualify the judge, another judge must be assigned the case, at least for the purpose of deciding the motion to disqualify. State ex rel. Ferguson v. Corrigan, 959 S.W.2d 113 (Mo. banc 1997). By the same standard, if the motion to disqualify is substantially insufficient, the trial judge is not required to have another judge hear the recusal motion. State v. Taylor, 929 S.W.2d 209, 220 (Mo. banc 1996). Jonesí contention is rejected because the facts that he pleaded were not sufficiently in dispute to require that another judge hear the motion to disqualify.

IV. Family Opposition to the Death Penalty

Jones asserts that the trial court erred when it imposed the death sentence contrary to the victimís family wishes because that action denied them of the right to be meaningfully heard at sentencing and was contrary to the policy of treating victims with fairness, compassion, dignity, respect and sensitivity, as guaranteed by article I, section 32 of the Missouri Constitution. Dorothy Knucklesí family urged that a death sentence not be imposed. Jones argues that this request was based on feelings that the family could not begin the healing process if Jones were sentenced to death, and that no retributive interest was served since the family did not want a death sentence.

Article I, section 32 (2) of the Missouri Constitution, which governs crime victims rights, provides: "Upon request of the victim, the right to be informed of and heard at guilty pleas, bail hearings, sentencings, probation revocation hearings, and parole hearings, unless in the determination of the court the interests of justice requires otherwise...." Nothing in the above provision suggests that the trial court is required to follow the wishes of the victimís family members. The court heard the wishes of the family but was not bound by them.

V. Post-conviction Hearing Denial

Jones alleges that the motion court erred by denying him a hearing on most of his Rule 29.15 claims. Jones asserts that he pleaded clearly and succinctly factual allegations as to those claims that if proven would entitle him to relief and they were not refuted by the record. Further, he alleges that his pleadings contained claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, including counselís failure: to take steps necessary to allow a second taped statement he made to be admitted in order to show his remorse; to present cumulative mitigating evidence; to represent him adequately during voir dire; to present evidence and adequately assert that jurors do not understand the MAI instructions; to question adequately defense penalty phase witnesses; and to take sufficient efforts to disqualify the trial judge and to make objections to his hostile behavior. Jones also contends that defense co-counsel should have withdrawn from the case based on her history of conflict with the trial judge. Finally, Jones alleges that the decision to seek death against him was based on arbitrary and capricious factors.

Rule 29.15(h) does not require an evidentiary hearing if the motion court determines that the files and records of the case conclusively show that the movant is not entitled to relief, but the court is required to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law. Appellate review of the trial courtís findings of fact is limited to a determination of whether the findings are clearly erroneous. Rule 29.15(k). In order to obtain an evidentiary hearing, in claims related to ineffective assistance of counsel, the movant must allege facts, not refuted by the record, showing that counselís performance did not conform to the degree of skill, care, and diligence of a reasonably competent attorney and that the movant was thereby prejudiced. State v. Brooks, 960 S.W.2d 479, 497 (Mo. banc 1997). Counsel is presumed to have rendered adequate assistance and to have made all significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment. State v. Kinder, 942 S.W.2d 313, 335 (Mo. banc 1996). Jonesí motion was properly overruled without an evidentiary hearing because his allegations do not satisfy the above requirements.

A. Failure to Ensure that Taped Statement was Audible

Jones alleges that his counsel did not ensure that a taped statement he made was audible and understandable because it could have been played for the jury to show his deep remorse and sadness. Counsel sought to introduce the tape into evidence, the prosecutor objected on grounds that it was inaudible and hearsay, and the court sustained the objection. The trial court did not err because Jones fails to prove how he was prejudiced in that his mother and Officer Douglas testified before the jury as to Jonesí remorse and sadness. The tape will only be cumulative evidence of his remorse and sadness.

B. Failure to Present Psychological and Mitigating Evidence

Jones contends that counsel failed to develop and present evidence that he had suffered from a mental disease or defect affecting his responsibility and that his mental condition would have lessened the degree of the offense, mitigated punishment, or both. In order to support the above contention, Jones resorted to offers of proof and an affidavit not submitted to the motion court. The motion court did not err for overruling the motion because Jones did not prove that the counselís failure to present extensive cumulative evidence about his mental status was prejudicial. See, State v. Taylor, 929 S.W.2d, 209, 225 (Mo. banc 1996).

C. Failure to Ensure an Adequate Voir Dire

Jones alleges that his counsel failed to ensure that an adequate voir dire was conducted, to limit the prosecutorís and courtís improper voir dire, and to ensure qualified venirepersons were retained and the unqualified ones were removed. The motion court found that Jonesí allegations lacked factual specificity, that he did not prove prejudice and that he could not prove that his attorneyís actions during voir dire were incompetent and not matters of trial strategy. See Kinder, supra at 338. The motion court findings and conclusions are not clearly erroneous.

D. Failure to Adequately Challenge MAI Instructions

Jones contends that his counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the MAI instructions through presenting evidence that jurors do not understand the instructions. In support of this claim, Jones asserts that Dr. Richard Weiner, a social scientist, could have testified about a study of MAI instructions that purports to demonstrate that jurors in fact do not understand the instructions. This research does not necessarily support a conclusion that the jurors in this case were unable to understand the MAI instructions. This Court has decided that the MAI instructions are constitutional and that counselís failure to object to possible jury misunderstanding does not support claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The constitutionality of the MAI instructions defeats the claim that counselís performance was deficient and that he was prejudiced. Kinder, supra at 338.

E. Questioning of Defense Counsel

Jones alleges that counsel was ineffective for failing to question defense witnesses, which was especially prejudicial in light of the prosecutorís argument that Knucklesí family was only testifying on behalf of Jones because he is a family member. These statements lack factual specificity and do not establish how Jones was prejudiced by counselís failure to question the Knucklesí family extensively.

F. Trial Judge Disqualification

Jones alleges that counsel was ineffective in their efforts to disqualify the trial judge and that defense co-counsel should have withdrawn from representation due to her alleged conflict with the trial judge. This issue has already been addressed. The record, moreover, reflects that both defense attorneys functioned quite capably.

G. Arbitrariness of Death Sentence

Jones alleges that the decision to seek the death penalty was based on arbitrary and capricious considerations of race, affluence and gender. The motion court found that this was a matter for direct appeal. Post-conviction motions cannot be used as a substitute for direct appeal or to obtain a second appellate review. See State v. Redman 916 S.W.2d 787, 793 (Mo. banc 1996). Furthermore, this Court has consistently upheld Missouriís death penalty scheme as being constitutional. State v. Carter, 955 S.W.2d 548, 562 (Mo. banc 1997).

VI. Instructional Error

Jones argues that the trial court erred by using Instruction No. 12, which was modeled on MAI-Cr3d 308.03 and premised on section 552.010, RSMo 1994. Jones claims error because the instruction directed the jurors that they were only permitted, but not required, to consider his drug dependence and could only consider that dependence if psychosis had existed. Instruction No. 12 provides:

You may consider evidence that the defendant had or did not have a mental disease or defect in determining whether the defendant had the state of mind required to be guilty of murder in the first degree.

The term "mental disease or defect" means any mental abnormality regardless of its medical label, origin, or source. However, it does not include alcoholism without psychosis or drug abuse without psychosis.

If, after considering all the evidence, including evidence that the defendant did or did not have a mental disease or defect, you have a reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant coolly reflected upon the matter of causing the death of Dorothy Knuckles, you must find the defendant not guilty of murder in the first degree as submitted in Instruction No. 7.

Jones argues that this had the effect of relieving the state from proving the mental state required for first degree murder and deprived him of a meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense by foreclosing the jury from considering his drug dependence.

Instruction 12 is proper. The permissive language allows the jury the option to consider evidence of mental disease or defect. There is no reasonable likelihood that the jury understands the instruction to relieve the state of its burden to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Erwin, 848 S.W.2d 476, 481 (Mo. banc 1993). Furthermore, in Missouri "alcoholism without psychosis or drug abuse without psychosis" does not constitute mental disease or defect. Section 552.010, RSMo 1994. See also State v. Roll, 942 S.W.2d 370, 376 (Mo. banc 1997) cert. denied 118 S.Ct. 376 (1997).

VII. Cross-examination of Dr. Armour

Jones argues that the trial court erred in limiting defense counselís cross-examination of Dr. Armour regarding the difference between drug abuse and drug dependence. The judge sustained an objection to this line of questioning. Jones contends that the evidence would have proved that his drug dependence was a more serious mental impairment than merely drug abuse.

Trial courts have considerable latitude in limiting cross-examination because of concerns about prejudice, confusion of issues, and marginally relevant interrogation. State v. Taylor, 944 S.W.2d 925, 935 (Mo. banc 1997). The trial court did not err when it disallowed the question because the law does not support such a distinction between drug dependence and drug abuse.

VIII. Limiting Instruction on Testimony of Lester and Linda Knuckles

Jones argues that the trial court erred by instructing the jury that it could only consider Lester and Linda Knucklesí testimony as to the voluntariness of Jonesí statement and not for the purpose of whether he acted with deliberation. Lester and Linda testified they had listened to an audiotape of the police interrogation of Jones and that his voice did not sound normal. According to Jones the evidence was relevant to show whether he had acted with deliberation and contradicted Officer Douglas' testimony that Jones appeared to be "normal" when he was taken into custody.

In making its determination, the trial court found that the confession was not made near the time of the killing and that the testimony of defense expert, Dr. Parwatikar, did not indicate that he relied on the appellantís voice to make his finding regarding Jonesí ability to deliberate. The killing occurred on the evening of March 6, 1993, and the confession was on March 9, 1993. The court instructed the jury before Lester and Lindaís testimony. If evidence is admissible for one purpose but improper for other purposes, it should be received, subject to limiting instruction, if requested. Dyer v. Globe-Democrat Pub. Co., 378 S.W.2d 570 (Mo. 1964).

IX. Limiting Inquiry of Substance Abuse During Voir Dire

Jones argues that the trial court erred by prohibiting defense counsel from asking the venire about their feelings regarding life imprisonment without parole and whether they could consider that punishment where the defendant had committed the offense after having ingested drugs or alcohol. Defense counsel wished to determine whether the venire could consider the full range of punishment under the facts presented and to acquire information necessary for making peremptory strikes and challenges for cause.

Questioning during voir dire is within the discretion of the trial judge, and only a manifest abuse of discretion and a probability of prejudice to the defendant will justify reversal. State v. Clemons, 946 S.W.2d 206, 224 (Mo. banc 1997). The record indicates that although the trial court sustained the prosecutorís objection to some of defense counselís questions regarding the venireís views on life imprisonment without parole, the court did allow the defense counsel to explain and question the venire on the full range of punishment. In fact, the venire stated that they understood the full range of punishment, that the state had the burden of proof, and they would consider mitigating evidence submitted. The trial court did not abuse its discretion.

X. Limiting Questions of Witness on Mitigation and Failure to Submit Non-MAI Mitigating Instruction

Jones argues that the trial court erred because it sustained the stateís objection to his counselís attempt to elicit from St. Louis City jail social worker, David Kovac, that it was highly unusual for a jail inmate not have obtained any conduct violations, as he had done, over an extended period of time. He also contends that the court failed to submit Instruction G, which listed non-statutory mitigating circumstances.

With regard to David Kovac, the following occurred:

Q. (defense co-counsel) Mr. Kovac, are you familiar with Donald Jones?

A. Yes, I am.

Q. How are you familiar with him?

A. Oh, heís been there for quite awhile, since March of í93. In my opinion heís a model resident. Never once doesnít have any writeups, he works in the laundry, does a very good job, he attends all the programs. Heís a good resident.

Q. Okay. You said he hasnít had a single write-up?

A. Thatís correct.

Q. How common is that?

PROSECUTOR: Once again, Iím going to object, Your Honor, as being irrelevant.

THE COURT: The objection is sustained.

Jones made no offer of proof to show what the witness would have testified. In addition, Jones was not prejudiced by the trial courtís ruling because he was allowed to develop evidence to demonstrate that he was a person of good character. See State v. Richardson, 923 S.W.2d 301, 320 (Mo. banc 1996).

With regard to the non-MAI mitigating instructions, this Court has stated that:

Where an applicable MAI-CR instruction exists, the court is required under Rule 28.02 to submit that Instruction. The applicable MAI-CR instructions sufficiently address the juryís consideration of mitigating circumstances, and the trial court properly submitted the MAI instructions to the exclusion of defendantís non-MAI instructions regarding mitigators.

State v. Roberts, 948 S.W.2d 577, 603 (Mo. banc 1997).

XI. Juror Contact

Jones argues that the motion court erred by entering an order that allowed Rule 29.15 counsel to speak with jurors about only a few select issues. As a result, counsel claims to be precluded from investigating, pleading, and proving claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and juror misconduct. The motion court order stated:

For good cause shown, counsel for Movant Donald E. Jones, granted access to jurors in Cause Number 931-0666, their addresses, and their telephone numbers, pursuant to Rule 53.3, Rules of the Twenty-second Judicial Circuit Court. Counsel ordered not to disclose the juror addresses or telephone numbers to other persons. Inquiry of the jurors is limited to questions regarding jurorsí use of telephone; jurorsí familiarity with Donald Jones, his family members or friends; and or whether any pressure or influence was placed on the jurors.

The local Rule 53.3 of the Twenty-second Judicial Circuit provides:

No attorney or client, their agents or representatives, shall contact any member of a jury which has heard evidence in any cause in this circuit; provided however, the court in its discretion may grant permission to attorneys or clients to discuss a case with the jurors immediately after the return of a verdict; provided further, the court may also allow contact with the jurors if necessary for purposes of a timely after-trial motion filed under Missouri Supreme Court Rules.

The motion court confined the subjects generally as to matters that are proper subjects of inquiry to jurors. The court did not abuse its discretionary power to grant permission for contact with the jurors after trial.

XII. Prosecutionís Discretion to Seek the Death Penalty

Jones argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to quash the indictment based on the unconstitutionality of the death penalty and the prosecutorís discretion to seek the death penalty. This Court has consistently upheld Missouriís death penalty scheme. See State v. Carter, 955 S.W.2d 548, 562 (Mo. banc 1997).

XIII. Sympathy to Defendant as Irrelevant to the Imposition of Sentence

Jones argues that the trial court erred by overruling defense counselís objection to the state telling the venire that the jury could not consider sympathy for him as a reason to impose a life sentence. Admonition to the jury not to consider sympathy in its punishment determination is not improper. This does not diminish defendant's prerogative to seek mercy from the jury based upon the circumstances of the case. State v. Clemmons, 753 S.W.2d 901, 910 (Mo. banc 1988), cert. denied 488 U.S. 948 (1988).

XIV. Removal of Death Scrupled Venirepersons

Jones argues that the trial court erred by sustaining the stateís challenges for cause to venirepersons Edwards, Gray, Luedde, and Stagner because they indicated that they could consider the death penalty and would follow the law, as submitted in the jury instructions. Venirepersons may be excluded only where it appears that their views would prevent or substantially impair the performance of their duties as jurors in accordance with the instructions and their oath. State v. Roberts, 948 S.W.2d 577, 597 (Mo. banc 1997). Venirepersons may not be excluded simply because of general objections to the death penalty or conscientious or religious scruples against it. Id. The trial court has broad discretion in determining qualifications of prospective jurors because it is in the best position to evaluate venirepersonsí responses. Id. This Court will not disturb the trial courtís ruling unless it is clearly against the evidence and constitutes a clear abuse of discretion. Id.

Venireperson Edwards stated that she is against the death penalty on the basis of religion and that she would automatically vote against it regardless of the evidence in the case and instruction from the judge to consider both life and death punishments. However, later during appellantís voir dire, Edwards indicated that she could listen to evidence of aggravating circumstances, could discuss with other jurors whether those circumstances existed, could weigh the aggravating circumstances against the mitigating circumstances, and could discuss with the fellow jurors whether the aggravating circumstances warranted death. The record supports the trial courtís decision to strike her for cause.

Venireperson Gray stated categorically during prosecutorís voir dire that under no circumstance would he consider the death penalty. During defense counselís voir dire he agreed that he would follow instructions from the court to determine whether the case warranted the death penalty and whether the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances. The record supports the trial courtís decision.
Venireperson Luedde equivocated as to whether she could consider the death penalty because she felt that she does not have the power to take another personís life. She agreed that she could follow instructions from the court as to listening to aggravating circumstances and whether the death penalty was warranted. The court considering the totality of her examination and answers decided to strike her for cause. The courtís decision was not an abuse of discretion based on the record.

Venireperson Stagner stated during voir dire, "I cannot consciously sentence anyone to death" because of his moral and religious belief. He stated that he could listen and discuss with fellow jurors whether aggravating circumstances exist and whether these circumstances outweigh mitigating circumstances; however, he could find that such circumstances warrant death with some difficulty. Based on the record, the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

XV. Denial of Challenge For Cause

Jones argues that the trial court erred by denying his challenge for cause of venireperson Merlo because Merlo knew the prosecutor and the prosecutorís parents. Merlo did not sit in this jury because appellant used a peremptory challenge against him. Under section 494.480, RSMo 1994, appellant agrees that his claim will be precluded because he cannot show that he was prejudiced by the trial courtís action. Nevertheless, he contends that section 494.480, as amended, does not apply because the alleged acts occurred before the effective date of the statute. However, this Court has rejected similar arguments on prior occasions. See, e.g., State v. Gray, 887 S.W.2d 369, 383 (Mo. banc 1994), cert. denied 514 U.S. 1042 (1995).

Nonetheless, under the prior statute, appellantís claim will fail also because Merlo was not biased against appellant. Review of the record indicates that Merlo was unwavering in his answer that he could give defendant a fair trial and that his knowledge of the prosecutor and prosecutorís parents would not affect his judgment in the case because there was too much at stake.

XVI. Refusal to Submit Manslaughter Instruction

Jones argues that the trial court erred by refusing to submit Instructions A (second degree murder) and B (voluntary manslaughter), which offered the jury the alternative of voluntary manslaughter. Jones alleges that there was enough evidence to support finding voluntary manslaughter because the jury could find that he was enraged with and killed the grandmother when she degraded him for his drinking and cocaine problems. Jonesí proposed Instruction A instructed the jury that second degree murder required a finding that "defendant did not do so under the influence of sudden passion arising from adequate cause." The trial court rejected Jonesí proposed Instruction A and instructed the jury on murder in the second degree without reference to sudden passion.

The jury, when presented with instructions on murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree, had the opportunity to find that Jonesí actions were not deliberate. Instead, the jury found the opposite. Thus, no reasonable basis exists to suggest that the jury would have reduced the conviction had they been presented with Instruction B dealing with voluntary manslaughter. See State v. Smith, 944 S.W.2d 901, 919 (Mo. banc 1997), cert. denied 118 S.Ct. 377 (1997). Thus, Jones was not prejudiced by the refusal to give an instruction on yet another lesser crime. See State v. Johnston, 957 S.W.2d 734, 751 (Mo. banc 1997). Furthermore, the review of the record does not support any instructional reference to sudden passion arising from adequate cause. For "[w]ords alone, no matter how opprobrious or insulting, are not sufficient to show adequate provocation." State v. Redmond, 937 S.W.2d 205, 208 (Mo. banc 1996).

XVII. Batson Challenge

Jones argues that the trial court erred when it denied his Batson challenge to the prosecutorís peremptory strike of Mr. McDonald, an African American. In Missouri, if the appellant wishes to challenge the stateís peremptory strike, he must first raise the challenge by identifying the cognizable racial group to which the stricken venireperson belongs. Simmons, supra at 736. Then, the trial court will require the state to proffer a reasonably specific and race-neutral reason for striking the venireperson. Id. Finally, the defendant has the opportunity to show that the proffered reasons are merely pretextual and that the strike is actually race-based. Id. Furthermore, the justification for peremptory strike need not rise to the level of justification for a challenge for cause. Smith, supra at 913.

The stateís proffered race-neutral reason for striking McDonald was that he was employed at a residential community for boys referred there by the juvenile division of the circuit court. According to the state, because McDonaldís employment focuses on rehabilitating young people, he will likely be the type of person unlikely to have the capability to impose death. The above reason is sufficiently race-neutral and nonpretextual for the trial court to deny appellantís challenge.

XVIII. Aggravating Circumstance Instruction to the Jury

Jones argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to strike the statutory aggravating circumstance that the murder involved depravity of mind and was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible and inhuman, in that this aggravator, even as limited by the Preston factors, is so vague that the circumstance does not narrow the class of individuals eligible for the death penalty. The jury found this aggravating circumstance. In addition, the jury found another aggravating circumstance that the homicide was committed during the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate robbery. The Court finds that the record supports both aggravating circumstances found by the jury.

Jonesí constitutional challenge of one of the aggravating circumstances is without merit. Where there is a finding of one valid aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt, this Court will affirm the death sentence. State v. Smith, 944 S.W.2d 901, 921 (Mo. banc 1997), cert. denied 118 S.Ct. 377 (1997). In this case, the jury found two aggravating circumstances. Even without considering the constitutional attack on one of the aggravating circumstances, this Court will affirm the sentence. Nonetheless, the constitutional attack has been rejected by this Court in the recent past. See State v. Harris, 870 S.W.2d 798, 813 (Mo. banc 1994), cert. denied 513 U.S. 953 (1994).

XIX. Proportionality Review

Jones claims that this his death sentence is excessive and disproportionate because the victims, the Knuckles family, did not want the state to seek the death penalty and the trial court to impose death. This claim has been considered and rejected above. This Court's proportionality review is set forth in section XXIII infra.

XX. Testimony of Mental Health Experts

Jones contends that the trial court erred by instructing the jury before the two mental health experts, Dr. Parwatikar (for the defense) and Dr. Armour (for the state), testified and instructed the jury again before the guilt phase deliberation that they should not use testimony of these experts about statements made to them as evidence that Jones did or did not commit the acts charged against him. Jones claims that because of these instructions, he was denied his right to present a complete defense by precluding the jury from considering evidence as to his state of mind, and that it relieved the state of its burden of proof. A similar claim was considered and rejected by this Court in State v. Kreutzer, 928 S.W.2d 854, 869-872 (Mo. banc 1996), cert. denied 117 S.Ct. 752 (1997).

XXI. Miranda Violation

Jones contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the statements he made to the police and allowed the state to introduce evidence of those statements. He argues that he was subjected to custodial interrogation without being apprised of his Miranda rights to remain silent when he was initially subjected to custodial interrogation and that his subsequent statements, made after receiving the Miranda warnings, were the fruit of the earlier un-Mirandized interrogation. The record indicates that appellantís claim was not raised in his motion to suppress or at trial. Issues raised for the first time on appeal are not preserved for review. Seitz v. Lemay Bank and Trust Company, 959 S.W.2d 458, 461 (Mo. banc 1998); Johnson v. State, 925 S.W.2d 834, 836 (Mo. banc 1996).

Alternatively, Jones argues that the motion court erred in denying his 29.15 motion claim that his counsel failed to present evidence that he was subjected to custodial interrogation without Miranda warnings that included handcuffing, fingerprinting, and fingernail scraping. The motion court granted an evidentiary hearing on this issue. The motion court found that Jones had not pleaded facts that demonstrated that he was prejudiced by his counselís decision and had not identified any witness by name, alleged what the substance of their testimony would have been in a factual manner, and had not alleged he informed his attorney of the witness. In fact, the motion court found that the defense needed to use the testimony in question to support the testimony of Dr. Parwatikar and used the testimony in his opening statement. In a post-conviction claim of ineffective assistance of counsel with regard to failure to investigate or produce witnesses, "a movant must identify who the witnesses were, what their testimony would have been, whether or not counsel was informed of their existence, and whether or not they were available to testify." State v. Dudley, 819 S.W.2d 51, 56 (Mo. App. 1991).

XXII. Reasonable Doubt Definition

Finally, Jones argues that the trial court erred by submitting guilt-phase Instruction 4 and penalty-phase Instruction 16, because they allegedly contain an improper definition of "reasonable doubt." He argues that the "firmly convinced" definition suggests a higher degree of doubt than is constitutionally required for acquittal. This Court has repeatedly rejected this argument. State v. Owsley, 957 S.W.2d 789, 796 (Mo. banc 1997).

XXIII. Independent Statutory Review

This Court is required to review the sentence of death under section 565.035.3, RSMo 1994. The statute provides that:

3. With regard to the sentence, the [S]upreme [C]ourt shall determine:

      (1) Whether the sentence of death was imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor; and

      (2) Whether the evidence supports the juryís or judgeís finding of a statutory aggravating circumstance as enumerated in subsection 2 of section 565.032 and any other circumstance found;

      (3) Whether the sentence of death is excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both [sic] the crime, the strength of the evidence and the defendant.

Id. The record does not indicate that the sentence of death imposed by the trial judge was imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice or any other arbitrary factor.

The evidence presented in this case sufficiently supports the juryís finding of two statutory aggravating circumstances. The jury found that the killing was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible and inhuman in that it involved depravity of mind because Jones committed repeated excessive acts of physical abuse on his grandmother. The jury found that Jonesí act of beating his grandmother several times with a butcher block and stabbing her numerous times with a knife before she stopped screaming and fell back onto her bed was brutal. See section 565.032.2(11), RSMo 1994. Also, the jury found that Jones was engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of robbery, section 565.032.2(11), RSMo 1994. Jones, after killing his grandmother, took her car keys, money, and VCR and drove off in her car. Jones sold the VCR and rented the car to get money to buy drugs. The above evidence supports the juryís finding of the aggravating circumstances.

Finally, the sentence in this case was not excessive or disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering the crime, the strength of the evidence and the defendant. This case is similar to other cases in which the death penalty was imposed upon a finding of any of the above aggravating circumstances. State v. Skillicorn, 944 S.W.2d 877 (Mo. banc 1997) (robbery); State v. Roll, 942 S.W.2d 370 (Mo. banc 1997) (robbery); State v. Taylor, 929 S.W.2d 209 (Mo. banc 1996) (robbery, depravity of mind); State v. Richardson, 923 S.W.2d 301 (Mo. banc 1996) (robbery); State v. Tokar, 918 S.W.2d 753 (Mo. banc 1996) (depravity of mind). The strength of the evidence of Jonesí guilt is very strong.

XXIV. Conclusion

For all of the foregoing reasons, the judgment is affirmed.

All concur.

Footnote:

FN1. This Court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict. State v. Shurn, 866 S.W.2d 447, 455 (Mo. banc 1993), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 837 (1994).

 
 

Jones v. Luebbers, 359 F.3d 1005 (8th Cir. 2004) (Habeas)

Background: State prisoner convicted of murder and sentenced to death filed petition for writ of habeas corpus. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Andrew W. Bogue, J., denied petition. Prisoner appealed.

Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Melloy, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) prisoner fairly presented issue of state trial judge's bias to the state court in his state post-trial motion as a matter of federal law, and thus, it was not procedurally defaulted;
(2) state Supreme Court's determination that trial judge's expressions of anger and annoyance towards defense counsel did not rise to the level of judicial bias requiring judge's disqualification was reasonable determination of facts in light of evidence presented; and
(3) trial judge's failure to recuse himself from his own disqualification hearing did not violate clearly established federal due process law. Affirmed

  


 


Donald Jones

 

The victim, Dorothy Knuckles.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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