Posted by Clay Bailey on Tue, May 12, 2009
Henry Lee Jones (Photo by Nikki Boertman)
Henry Lee Jones was found guilty of first-degree murder today in the August, 2003 slayings of Clarence and Lillian James at their Bartlett residence.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated an hour and 40 minutes before reaching the verdict. The victims’ family members, who had been warned against any outbursts, did not react out loudly, but they could be heard crying in the courtroom
Jones showed no reactions as the verdicts were read.
The jury will now move to the sentencing phase of the trial to decide whether the 45-year-old Jones will receive the death penalty of lethal injection, life in prison without parole, or a life sentence where he would have to serve a minimum of 51 years before he is considered for release. Court is adjourned today. The sentencing phase will begin Wednesday morning.
Clarence and Lillian James were found dead in their Bartlett Boulevard home on Aug. 23, 2003. Lillian James’ daughter, Margaret Coleman, could not reach her mother that day and went to the house to see if there was a problem. She immediately noticed things out of place, such as the garage door being closed, and began to worry. As she entered the house, she saw several items on the floor, including a pair of scissors on the floor. That bothered Coleman even more since her mother was a meticulous housekeeper. The daughter backed out of the house and called Bartlett police.
Officers arriving at the house found Lillian James in a bedroom. Clarence, known for waving at people passing his house, was in a utility room. Both had been stabbed, and their throats cut. Authorities eventually determined the pair was killed a day before they were found.
Jones was arrested in Florida after the investigations of a similar murder days later in Melbourne, Fla., and the Bartlett case crossed paths.
The prosecution team of Tom Henderson and John Campbell relied on the testimony of Jones’ accomplice Tevarus Young to tell the story of what happened at the James residence. According to Young, he rode to Bartlett from Fort Lauderdale.
He testified that Jones walked up to Clarence James and struck up a conversation. When Young returned from taking the homeowner’s lawnmower into the back yard, he noticed the men were no longer outside. When he went in, he discovered that Jones had killed Clarence and was in the process of killing Lillian.
Defense attorneys Robert Parris and Jake Erwin concentrated on questioning Young’s credibility in hopes of raising doubts about Jones’ involvement. In closing arguments, Parris told the jurors that Young was the one who killed the couple.
The Florida case linked to Jones involved Carlos Perez, 19, who was found in a Melbourne, Fla. motel in the days after the Bartlett slayings. Prosecutors were allowed to bring in evidence from that case because of the similarities to the deaths of Clarence and Lillian James.
In both slayings, the victims were bound when they were killed. Their throats were slashed on the right side of the neck, and they were found face down in a pool of blood. The bindings were removed after they were killed.
Some of the evidence in the Florida investigation was traced back to the Bartlett case, including a ring belonging to Lillian James found in the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car belonging to Henry Lee Jones.
Jones bought the car from a Batesville, Miss. used car lot on Aug. 22, 2003. He paid cash, and Young testified the money came from Lillian James’ wallet.
The sentencing phase begins today. The jury will be presented mitigating factors by the defense and enhancing factors by the State, the jury will then decide, by unanimous verdict only, if Jones will face the death penalty or life in prison and eligible for parole. If they cannot come to a unanimous decision, he will face life in prison.