UPDATE: First witness on stand at Becky Jones murder re-trial

By Patsy R. Brumfield / Daily Journal

BOONEVILLE – Jurors heard evidence Tuesday that murder defendant Rebecca “Becky” Jones appeared not to have been in a struggle just minutes after her mother was fatally shot.
Deputy Tammy Johnson, the first law enforcement officer to the shooting scene, said Jones told her that she and her mother “struggled over a gun” and it went off.
The trial recessed about 4:35 p.m. to resume at 8:40 a.m. Wednesday in the Prentiss County Courthouse courtroom.
Twelve jurors and two alternates were seated by about 3 p.m. from a 117-voter panel, many who adknowledged they knew both Jones, her deceased mother, Jane, or were related to them.
Becky Jones, 49, stands accused of fatally shooting her mother at Jane’s home outside Booneville in May 2010. She insists she did not go there with intentions to hurt her mother.
Jones went on trial in October 2012, but it was cut short on the second day when her defense attorney, Rob Laher of Tupelo, announced to the court that she was hospitalized in a coma after her overnight discovery on the bathroom floor of her Alabama home.
In the first trial, the few witnesses to testify said the two women had a long history of bad blood. Jane Jones blamed Becky for the accidental death of Becky’s sister, who was fatally injured by a school bus as the two waited to go to school. And Becky blamed her mother for estrangement with her own daughter and the loss of family property.
Josh Wise and Kimmie Kitchens represent the state. Circuit Judge Jim Seth Pounds has presided over both trials.
After the October mistrial, Kitchens was especially angry at the delay and its cause, vowing to see it through when it came back to court.
In her opening remarks, Kitchens told the jury Becky Jones murdered her mother.
Defense counsel Laher said it was a horrible accident.
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(Below is a running account of Tuesday afternoon’s courtroom proceedings. Please excuse the typos and glitches likely as I type rapidly.)
2:45 P.M. – Jones sits at the defense table. She has short medium-brown hair and glasses. She’s wearing a dark pants outfit with a white turtle-neck blouse and a gold/medallion chain necklace.
Circuit Clerk Mike Kelly taps on the microphone at the podium, and the courtroom immediately gets quiet.
Judge arrives, thanks jury pool for its timeliness and service. Calls 14 names for 12 jurors and 2 alternates. (Looks like 7 men and 7 women, 4 of them black.) Jurors sworn in.
Both sides agree to prohibit potential witnesses from sitting in the courtroom until after they testify. (In lawyer-talk, this is called “invoking the rule.”)
3:01 – KITCHENS – How sweet to hold a newborn baby, to feel the joy and pride she brings. Isn’t that true statement of a new mom. That pride and joy for Jane Jones was the defendant. As she held her, she had such hopes and dreams for her future. But she never imagined that there weren’t be dreams… would be a nightmare. Never thought that child she gave life to was child that one day would take her life. On May 12, 2010, the defendant murdered her own mother. With not one shot, but two shots to make sure the job was done. You will hear evidence that hammer was cocked back a third time, hd it been necessary.
Defendant took her gun into her mother’s home, home she was raised in. Def’s gun, bullets. Argument ensued. She would say gun was in her hand before two shots, and lo and behold, it was still in her hand immediately after the two shots. As her mother lay in the floor with two bullets… dying… bleeding… defendant walked out the door.
Walked out, leaving her mother to die. Never called 911. Never called ambulance, police, didn’t go get neighbor. Offered no medical attention. She did nothing except walk out the door while her mother was dying. These are not the actions of a daughter … actions of a murderer.
Josh Wise and I represent the people of MS – to prove beyond reasonable doubt that def murdered her mother. WE bear that burden. WE glad ly accept it. WE know at end, there will be no reasonable doubt.
This is the story culminating from an escalating problem. Ended in murder. Lifelong history of drug abuse – cocaine – and these problems put Jane Jones in a hard place. She had to make difficult decisions for her family, to protect it… things mothers don’t want to do, but any mother will do to protect her family.
Two issues led to this murder – first, history of drug use … becamse necessary for defendant to turn over her land to her mother. Because of problems, second thing, Lee Chancery Court tok the defendant’s daughter from her, gave it to Jane Jones, custody of that granddaughter. Those are hard things a mom must do … to protect her family. But in doing so, Jane Jones … decisions cost her her life because defendant blamed her mother for all her problems.
Mother’s fault – lost land, court took custody of daughter. Today, she is still blaming her mother for the fact that she’s sitting her on trial.
Witnesses will say defendant named the motive – my mother took my land, my child and now she’s taken my freedom.
Evidence will show that a few hours before murder, Brooke (granddaughter) … called her mother and said she heard Grandma is going to sell your land. Caused great upset with defendant. The final straw … and she will say she went to confront her mother. Argument ensued and she shot her, two times.
We will hve numerous witnesses. Three from Prentiss Sheriff’s Dept … will tell you this was no accident. No struggle, gun didn’t just go off two times and cock itself again. It was murder. When they arrived minutes after shooting, nothing turned over.. nothing moved or broken. Also, saw defendant and didn’t have wrinkles, bruises, scratches – nothing to indicate a struggle.
Also will tell you … that defendant did not cry at the same, when gave statement or when she found out her mom had died.
Next witnesses, medical professionals … Jane Jones rushed to University Med center. Will tell you about singificance of thse injuries. Kill shot went directly through her abdomen. That shot was the cause of her death. Autopsy – will say manner of death was shooting by the hand of another, it was a homicide.
Next will hear from Crime Lab personnel … will link defendant’s gun with the bullet at the scene, spent shells at scene. Will tell you that gun and those bullets were the ones who entered Jane Jones.
Finally, most importantly – you will hear from only other eye witness to this crime: Mrs. Jane Jones herself. She will tell you exactly what happened that day and what her daughter was doing. She called 911. Right after, before she died. Her last words. You will hear her say, My daughter shot me two times. She’s crazy, she’s coming back to kill me. Begging and pleading. Will hear the fear in her voice… fear of her daughter and of dying.
Also hear her pain, physical pain and knowing her only daughter shot her twice. Worse, the pain of knowing daughter left her. A lot of testimony. A lot of experts … link this murder. More importantly, use your head and heart, your common sense. Ask yourself if actions of a daughter … if accident, would ithave been two shots? Accidentally, would gun cock itself a third time? Struggle, would nothing have been overturned or broken? Nothing to indicate a struggle, blood, bruises, scratches, hair out of place on defendant?
Daughter walked out the door. Refused to call 911 or anybody for help. These are not the actions of how a daughter should act. Actions of murder.
State will ask that you return a verdict of guilty – against the defendant for murdering her own mother. 3:16.
LAHER – This is emotional. Enough common sense in this room about what could have happened Culimination of a horrible relationship between two people. It started when BEcky was quite young.
She had a sister. When she was 7 they waited for school bus and the sister got run over. She looked to her mother for love. She tried to replace her sister. Jane didn’t want to hear that. Jane didn’t love her, took her pain out on Becky. Next 30-40 years, back and forth they went. Some happy, some sad. Finally, Becky got away from her mother.
If this was two normal people … then I can see, yeh, … absolutely nothing normal about this. Nothing normal about Becky. True, problems with drugs, with relationships.
But on day in question… what was different about Becky that day. She didn’t live in Prentiss County anymore. Lived in Alabama, met a new man. Had gotten help for drug problem. She’d been clean for years. No evidence she was on any drugs that day. From time to time, she’d come back to visit her friends.
On that day, she’d already called her uncle and would stay with him. People knew she was on her way. Knew about mother’s plans to sell land long ago. The amount, it could ahve een important, but it wasn’t important to her. She already had triple size land. She didn’t need it. Becky was going to check on her mother.
They were planning, with a friend, to plan a costume jewelry party. On way, she decided to stop and see her mother. To ask why going to sell land. As long as they kept their distance … this defendant, had reconciled Jane with her daughter, Brooke. Jane began to physically abuse Brooke when she was pregnant, and Brooke had to leave her. But Becky tried to reconcile them so Jane could at least seeher grandchild. Monster, they will try to paint her.
She brought them together. Desperate for their love. She drives to mother’s house. they talk, she had a gun. Why? Because she always carried one. Since 1990, when she was attacked by a man, she’s always carried a gun. Everybody knew that. Kept it in her purse, always had it on her.
She goes in and sits down. You’ll see a diagram of this house. Lot of talk about lack of struggle. State will say should have been some wrestling match. WAsn’t like that at all. You’ll hear again and again what she told officers – we sat down, we talked, things were OK, then at certain point I decided to go. Was sitting down, had handbag, removed gun to get my keys. I looked up and mother was coming at me. She grabbed gun, struggle to get gun. More importantly – most crucial – don’t get bogged down in lack of disarray. You will see that Becky’s story she told police … coincides with the physical evidence of the case.
Rather than jumping to speculation … listen to what physical facts show. Shot came from 9 inches or closer? You’ll see she’s consistent. ARgument, brief struggle, gun went off twice. Becky stepped back, put gun on couch, mother called 911, she’s trying to get on 911 and say that’s not what happened. She was tyring to tell them… couldn’t get to the phone.
Now … she didn’t sit down to think about thie. She got in car, drove short distance. Realized she hadn’t done anything wrong. Turned around. Deputies showed up. Evidence will show she told the truth – but no one wants to hear it. Likely hear investigator say about call, gun, overlooks facts that she was telling truth about what happened.
Her chance to have someone listen, consider everything rather than call to say she’s trying to kill. Chance for an open mind, presumption of innocence. Her one chance. She’s asking you to look at everything. If you do.. I believe she didn’t intend to kill her mother at all. Find this was a horrible thing but no intent to harm her mother. Give her an open mind, you’ll find she is not guilty. 3:28 p.m.
3:29 – 15 min break
3:44 – STATE CALLS TAMMY JOHNSON (KITCHENS to question)
JOHNSON – Sheriff’s deputy. Describes her job responsibilities. About 11 years. Total 22 years in law enforcement. May 11, 2010 – on general patrol duty. In car, driving on the roads.
(Dispatch from 911?) About 5:49 p.m., call about shooting 439 Hwy 4 east. Approximately 2 miles from that address. Also said, shooting .. suspect in black car with Alabama tag. Took about 3 minutes to arrive. Arrived – as I approached, passed mailbox and then turned around. (Before that?) Passed by … no activity in front of house. Vehicle in carport, I believe. (No black car?) No. Turned around, over shoulder, saw a black car pull into driveway. First on scene. Pulled into driveway, white female beside black car, she was talking on cell phone. Didn’t know what was in her left hand. Stayed behind my car door, had to tell her twice to put down cell phone. She did.
Calling someone. (Your door open?) Yes, didn’t know what was going to happen. (Did she say, my mother’s been shot, bleeding?) OBJECT – LEADING. JUDGE – SUSTAINED. (Did she ask for help for her mother?) No.
(What did she look like?) Dressed neatly, hair was neat. (Shows her a photo.) Picture of the defendant. Taken that day. (Jury takes a look at it.) (Kitchens – Where was defendant when you arrived?) In driveway, just outside her car near driver’s door. (ot in house?) No. OBJECT – LEADING. JUDGE – SUSTAINED, DON’T LEAD. (She was where?) In driveway.
(How was she acting?) Seemed fine, other than my telling her to put cell phone down. She wasn’t upset or crying. (What did you do then?) As I shut door, I asked her what was going on. She said been an argument, struggle and gun went off. (See any blood on her?) No. (Scratches or bruises, abrasions?) No. (Hair, clothing messed up?) No. (How long after the 911 call?) 3-4 minutes.
(Anything about the way defendant looked that way to show you she was in a struggle?) No. (Next?) I told her I was going to handcuff her for my safety. Other officer arrived, put her in back of his car. Took her into custody. (Is she in courtroom?) Yes … points to defendant. Then I went into the house and found Mrs. Jones on the floor next to the front door. (Shows photo. Where was Mrs. Jones lying?) (Deputy points to photo next to front door.) Says photo accurate of home at time she saw it. Didn’t see Mrs. Jones immediately. When walked into carport door, I was in kitchen. Proceeded into house … saw Jones by couch. She was talking on the phone. Did not have a shirt on. Had a wound under her right arm and scratch on chin. (Struggle?) She was scared, no shirt. Honestly, I didn’t know what was going on with her. She wanted someone to help her. (Talked to her?) Briefly, took phone from her 911… asked about argument? She said, that’s all it was. She started asking for help, wouldn’t talk any more. Wanted ambulance. She was lying on the floor.
(As time went by, what happened to her?) Probably … not sure of time… couple of minutes, she turned gray. I knew she was in trouble. I asked for ambulance to get there quickly. (Condition deteriorated?) In my opinion, it did. (What else noticed about room?) Not really anything out of place. On couch, gun was there. (Any furniture turned over?) No. Nothing turned over on table, other places. (Shows her photo.) (Other evidence?) Saw the gun, lying on the couch. It was hot. 38-calber handgun. Noticed diapers on the mantle, asked … I was going to check the rest of the house.
Saw blood drops out in the hallway. (Who arrived next?) Behind me was Officer David BArrios, then Roy Reagan. Secured scene before Reagan arrived. Reagan asked me to take pictures of Mrs. Jones. (More photos. Shows to jury.) Of Mrs. Jones’ condition that day.
(Why Reagan asked for photos?) OBJECTION – JUDGE – WHY? Deputy says because she was female. Didn’t take any other photos. (Any other involvement?) No.
4:09 – (LAHER QUESTIONS HER)
JOHNSON – (ASked about scene in driveway. Went over her testimony.) Complied with request to put down cell phone after second time. (Familiar with Becky Jones or the house?) No. (After she complied, you had brief discussion?) Not discussion. (Exchanged brief remarks?) Briefly. (She said argument, struggle, gun went off?) Yes. (Laher looks at her sworn statement, June 13, 2010?) Not sure about date, but made a statement. (He hands her a copy. Yours?) Yes it is. (On statement, am I accurate that your report that Becky told you argument, struggle for the gun and gun went off?) Yes. (Struggle for the gun?) Yes. (Photos of home interior. This photo?) Yes. (Came in from carport and went around … into open area to front door?) Yes. (Open area? No furniture to disturb, if something happened in that open area?) I don’t know. (To be more accurate, something in the floor?) Blankets, yes.
(On floor, blanket? Shows her one.) Yes. (He puts blanket on the floor… when Becky said what happened, she didn’t say struggled over blanket or remote … strictly about gun?) Yes. (You said … saw Mrs. Jones on phone?) Yes. Didn’t have a shirt on. (Lying to the side.) (Made contact with her?) Yes. (Questions about what Mrs. Jones told you. She said argument?) Yes. She said, that’s all it was. (Where did that come from?) I believe it’s on 911 tape. (You’ve testified before about this case?) Yes. (He shows her earlier transcript. When was it she said “that’s all it was?”) I don’t know. (4-5 months ago?) No. (Remember if in May 2010?) I don’t remember. (In your statement?) No.
(… they both are looking at her statement.) (At what point did you add that?) I don’t know. (According to your testimony earlier …) (You said … you weren’t there when wound occurred?) No. (Wound in photo traveled … he shows shoulder area.) OBJECTION – CLLS FOR SPECULATION. JUDGE – SUSTAINED
(When you came in, she was talking on the phone but deteriorated? Don’t know how she was before you arrived?) No, just she was on the phone. DONE 4:25
KITCHENS QUESTIONS
(Didn’t she say there had been an argument?) Yes. She said that’s all it was. (Sure she said that?) Yes. (Show her transcript of earlier trial … reads … what did she say? She said name …had been ana rgument, then started asking for help, that’s all she would say. Is that your testimony then and today?) Yes. (Defendant said there was an argument?) Yes. (Did defendant say struggle?) Yes. (Anything about her to indicate struggle?) OBJECTION – SUSTAINED (KITCHENS – Numerous questions about items in the floor, directed to the witness) JUDGE – Nothing about her appearance.
(Anything about the house that indicated struggle?) No. (Know where struggle took place/) No. (IN this small open area?) No. (Anything broken … shows various nearby locations, furniture…?) No, no, no. (Who said there was a struggle?) OBJECTION – THREE TIMES. JUDGE – ANOTHER. (Who said?) Becky. (Did your investigation find there was a struggle?) No.
Kitchens says she might be recalled.
JUDGE – Counsel approach (sidebar conversation) Jury, we will recess for the evening. Please arrive by 8:30. We’ll try to start about 8:40 a.m. Warns them not to talk, read accounts anywhere.
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1:56 P.M. – Judge, attorneys are back in the courtroom to hear from attorneys about opinions about potential jurors.
After selection of the 14, Judge Pounds declared the trial to be moving along “at an extraordinary pace.”
(See a separate report on DJournalnow about jury selection and the morning’s proceedings.)
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Follow live courtroom updates on Twitter.com #Jonestrial or Patsy’s posts @realnewsqueen.