Veteran executed for killing fellow soldier; said Iraqi nerve gas caused brain damage
Tuesday, March 18th 2003, 12:00 am
News On 6
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) _ A decorated Gulf War veteran who claimed his exposure to Iraqi nerve gas caused him to rape and kill a female soldier was executed by injection Tuesday at a federal prison.
Louis Jones Jr., 53, died by injection at the U.S. Penitentiary near Terre Haute after President Bush and the U.S. Supreme Court refused his two final requests that they intervene.
Jones was the third person _ after Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and drug kingpin Juan Garza _ put to death by the federal government since it resumed executions in 2001 after a 38-year suspension.
Jones, who had no prior criminal record, admitted kidnapping 19-year-old Pvt. Tracie Joy McBride from a Texas Air Force base, raping her and beating her to death with a tire iron. His attorneys said exposure to the gas caused severe brain damage that led him to kill.
â€œToday was a day of justice for Tracie,â€ Irene McBride, the victim's mother, said after she witnessed the execution. â€œToday Louis Jones finally was made accountable for his actions, and today he will meet his ultimate judge.â€
â€œEverybody is glad this is over. It's been a long eight years,â€ she said. â€œThe healing is not over; it's just beginning.â€
In Jones' final moments, he looked toward the room where the witnesses he had selected were watching and mouthed the words, â€œI love you.â€ He did not look toward the room where McBride's family watched.
Asked by prison officials whether he had a last statement, Jones said: â€œAlthough the Lord hath chastised me forth, he hath not given me over unto death.â€
He then began singing a hymn with the refrain, â€œIn the cross, in the cross, be my glory ever 'til my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.â€
Jones was declared dead at 7:08 a.m.
The White House and the high court refused Monday to block the execution after reviewing Jones' nerve gas claims. White House officials declined to explain Bush's decision, and the court did not comment.
Attorney Timothy Floyd said his client had been hopeful as he awaited word on whether Bush would consider his request to commute his death sentence to life in prison.
â€œHe was really remarkably strong and I think at peace with whatever happens. I attribute that to his deep faith _ I think that's sustained him through this,â€ Floyd said before Bush's decision was announced.
Federal prosecutors and McBride's family in Centerville, Minn., opposed Jones' clemency request, pointing to evidence of his aggressive behavior before the Gulf War, including four incidents in which he beat up co-workers or fellow soldiers.
Following his Gulf War service, Jones was promoted to master sergeant and honored with a Meritorious Service Award. Jones killed McBride in 1995, two years after his honorable discharge from the Army.
The federal government handled the prosecution because McBride was abducted from a military base. During his trial, defense experts testified Jones suffered brain damage from abuse as a child and post-traumatic stress from his combat tours.
In December 2000, after his conviction, the Pentagon informed Jones that he, along with about 130,000 other soldiers, may have been exposed to low levels of nerve gas wafting from a weapons depot troops destroyed near the southern Iraqi city of Khamisiyah in March 1991.