Murder defendant hospitalized; mistrial declared

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

BOONEVILLE – Murder defendant Rebecca “Becky” Jones lay unconscious Wednesday when Judge Seth Pounds halted her Prentiss County trial.
Jones’ absence from the Booneville courtroom was obvious, as Pounds declared a mistrial and thanked the jury for its three days of service.
“The question becomes: Did she do this or is it a heart attack or something she could not help,” said the judge.
The trial day began with the revelation by Jones’ attorney Rob Laher of Tupelo that his client was in the Intensive Care Unit of a Florence, Ala., hospital, where she’d been taken by ambulance overnight.
He said his client had dinner with friends, then went home to Alabama, complained of stomach pain and later was discovered unconscious on her bathroom floor.
By 1:20 p.m., Laher and co-counsel Jay Perry asked for the mistrial after attempting to speak with her in the hospital.
“Ms. Jones was about as unresponsive as someone can be and still be alive,” Laher said late in the afternoon.
In the courtroom, frustration was apparent on the faces of prosecutors Josh Wise and Kimi Kitchens.
Kitchens said her office “will not let this go.”
Why Jones was unresponsive isn’t yet public, but courtroom questions arose about the former prescription-drug abuser.
Laher insisted Jones did not try to take her life.
Jones is accused of killing her 56-year-old mother, Jane Jones, on May 11, 2010. Medical examiner’s testimony Tuesday stated cause of death was a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
Relatives and others said the women had a long history of acrimony, going as far back as when Becky Jones was 7 and her 6-year-old sister was killed by a school bus as the two girls waited for transport to school.
If convicted, Becky Jones faces up to life in prison.
Pounds ordered her arrest as soon as she is released from the hospital, as well as for her to pay this week’s court costs and future trial costs. He also asked for an order to secure her medical records for the District Attorney’s Office to determine why she was hospitalized and if sanctions are warranted.
Laher agreed, saying it’s important to know what happened to his client.
In opening statements to the jury Tuesday, Laher said Jane Jones’ death was an accident as the two women struggled for a gun in her home.
Pounds could have resumed the trial in Jones’ absence, but he said numerous legal issues and logistical problems loomed for a quick resumption in Prentiss County. He said he could not predict likely conflicts for jury members, too.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com