Man Convicted of Kids' Murders May Have Sentenced Repealed Over Photographs Used at Trial

Timothy Jones murdered his five children in 2014, but his attorney wants his sentence repealed after photographs of the dead children were shown in court Tuesday.

The South Carolina Supreme Court justices are questioning Jones' case, and if a prosecutor offered to show photos of the dead children to the jury to unfairly upset them and sentence Jones to death.

Jone's lawyers argued that Jones is not guilty by reason of insanity. They claim Jones did not know right from wrong because his brain is damaged from undiagnosed schizophrenia that was amplified by his failed marriage and raising his children alone. His lawyers claimed that the horrific photos of the bodies' conditions showed Jone's insanity and innocence. His lawyers also claimed that the judge should have told jurors that even if he was not found guilty, he would be kept in custody for several months or the rest of his life because of his mental condition.

Jones killed his five children, ages 1 to 8, in August 2014 in Alabama. Prosecutors said after he killed his 6-year-old son, he decided to kill the rest of the children to cover up the crime. Jones then drove around with their bodies for nine days before dumping them on the side of a road in garbage bags.

The images were taken nine days after the children were killed and after Jones tried to speed their decomposition.

The photos of the dead children were entered as court records by attorney Robert Dudek, who wants Jones's death sentence and conviction overturned.

"I've done this for over 30 years and those are about impossible to look at. They are horrific under any definition. Here you have 12 jurors off the street seeing photographs of dead children," Dudek said.

The justices will rule at a later date.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard
Timothy Jones murdered his five children in 2014, but his attorney wants his sentence repealed after photographs and of the dead children were shown in court Tuesday. Rick Hubbard, 11th Circuit Solicitor, delivers closing arguments, showing pictures of the Jones children during the sentencing phase of the trial of Timothy Jones Jr. in Lexington, South Carolina on June 13, 2019. Tracy Glantz/The State/Associated Press

Solicitor Rick Hubbard, making a rare appearance by a trial prosecutor before the state's highest court to justify his own actions in Jones' trial, said he has learned jurors lose trust in a prosecutor when he shows them horrific photos on his terms.

That's why Hubbard said he told them in his closing statement if they needed further proof, the envelope with the photos of the children in garbage bags were in the jury room and "if you have any doubt for the appropriate sentence for that man, look in the bag!"

"They get offended at me when I hold up photos that are hard," Hubbard said. "So I let them do it on their time."

Attorneys for Jones said a judge should have allowed jurors to see a videotape of Jones' mother, who had been ordered to remain in an out-of-state mental hospital for decades because of her schizophrenia, a diagnosis her son was aware of and made him angry and nervous.

Jones' lawyers also said the case should be overturned because Circuit Judge Eugene Griffith refused to allow testimony from a defense expert witness who planned to say a prosecution witness erred when scoring a physiological test that found Jones was exaggerating his symptoms of mental illness.

Dudek said the defense lawyers also figured prosecutors would wait and use the photos in final moments before the jury started deliberating whether Jones should die for his crimes and wanted to lessen their impact by using them earlier in the trial.

Justices asked Hubbard why he asked to include the photos after having Dr. Janice Ross testify in grim detail to the conditions of the bodies—including saw marks on his 2-year-old son's leg—and what Jones had done to try and hasten their decomposition.

"The way he treated those bodies with contempt. We had Dr. Ross say here was a disarticulated leg, referring to bag three with Gabriel, the 2-year-old," Hubbard answered. "But you had to look to see what she meant."

Before Hubbard spoke, Associate Justice John Kittredge wondered aloud why the prosecutor risked what appeared to him to be an airtight case. Kittredge cited a 2010 ruling by the state Supreme Court where they warned prosecutors that submitting photos of a Spartanburg couple who were beaten to death and burned by a man pushed the outer limits of what judges should allow.

"Stop it! Stop this nonsense," Kittredge said. "The pathologist testified in great detail as to what the pictures depicted, but we just got to throw the autopsy pictures in there to stir the pot. I don't know what it is going to take to stop this."