Quintin Jones Executed in Texas Without Any Media Witnesses

The execution of Quintin Jones in Texas went ahead on Wednesday evening without any media witnesses present.

Jones, 41, received the lethal injection at the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville for the 1999 killing of his 83-year-old great-aunt Berthena Bryant.

But the state's first execution in almost a year took place without any media witnesses because prison agency officials neglected to notify reporters it was time to carry it out, the Associated Press reported.

The previous 570 executions carried out by Texas since capital punishment resumed in 1982 all had at least one media witness.

There were no unusual circumstances with the execution, Jeremy Desel, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told the AP around half an hour after Jones was pronounced dead.

As the lethal dose of pentobarbital was administered, he took four or five deep breaths followed by "a long deep snore," Desel added. His account relied on the agency officials who were inside the death chamber. Jones was pronounced dead at 6:40 p.m.

Desel did not receive the usual phone call from the Huntsville prison to bring reporters from the AP and The Huntsville Item, who were waiting in an office across the street, to witness the execution.

"As a result of a miscommunication between officials at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, there was never a call made to the summon the media witnesses into the unit," he told Newsweek.

"We apologize for this critical error. The agency is investigating to determine exactly what occurred to ensure it does not happen again."

He told the AP the officials included a number of new personnel who had never participated in the execution process.

Before Jones died, he said, "I was so glad to leave this world a better, more positive place," according to a prison transcript provided to Newsweek. "I hope I left everyone a plate of food full of happy memories, happiness and no sadness."

Suleika Jaouad, a writer who advocated for Jones' life to be spared, tweeted shortly after the execution: "Justice was not served. The world is not a better place because Quin is gone. May his memory expand our capacity for grace and mercy. May it fuel us to fight for a better, more compassionate, more just, more humane world.

"Before Quin entered the execution chamber he called me for the last time. He was sad but so grateful that his story had touched those who didn't even know they needed to be touched. He hoped people would pick up the pebble and throw it into the next pond, and let it ripple out."

Quintin Jones was executed around 6:40 pm, Texas time. Justice was not served. The world is not a better place because Quin is gone. May his memory expand our capacity for grace and mercy. May it fuel us to fight for a better, more compassionate, more just, more humane world.

— suleikajaouad (@suleikajaouad) May 20, 2021

Jones died shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to halt his execution.

On Tuesday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles unanimously voted to deny Jones' clemency petition and Gov. Greg Abbott did not act to delay it.

Abbott has granted clemency to only one death row inmate, Thomas "Bart" Whitaker, since he took office in 2015.

The board's decision prompted Jones' attorney Michael Mowla to file a civil rights lawsuit against the board, alleging racial discrimination. Mowla argued that Jones' case bore similarities to Whitaker's, but Whitaker is white and Jones was Black.

However, U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. dismissed the complaint, saying there was no direct evidence for the allegation.

Mowla had also argued in appeals that Jones was intellectually disabled and that his death sentence was based on discredited science that branded him a psychopath and presented him as a future danger.

But prosecutors have argued that Jones' death sentence was justified because he has a violent history, including participating in two other murders.

They said he beat Bryant to death with a bat at her Fort Worth home after she refused to lend him money.

Some members of Jones' family opposed the execution, however, and had urged Abbott to grant him clemency.

The victim's sister, Mattie Long, said in an affidavit that was included in Jones' clemency petition: "Because I was so close to Bert, her death hurt me a lot. Even so, God is merciful.

"Quintin can't bring her back. I can't bring her back. I am writing this to ask you to please spare Quintin's life."

Jones was the first inmate in Texas to be executed since Billy Wardlow on July 8, 2020.

Quintin Jones
This undated handout photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice shows Quintin Jones—who was executed on Wednesday, May 19. Texas Department of Criminal Justice via AP

Update 5/20 7:40 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with additional comments from Jeremy Desel.