Outrage as Texas executes man without witnesses from news media

<p>No reporters were present when Quintin Jones, 41, was executed</p> (AP)

No reporters were present when Quintin Jones, 41, was executed


When Quintin Jones died by lethal injection on Wednesday, no one from the news media was there to witness it.

That’s because they weren’t invited. According to the government of Texas, where Mr Jones was executed, prison officials accidentally neglected to bring in the reporters scheduled to bear witness, as is customary for executions in the state.

“As a result of a miscommunication between officials at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, there was never a call made to summon the media witnesses into the unit,” the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said in a statement. “We apologise for this critical error. The agency is investigating to determine exactly what occurred to ensure it does not happen again.”

When Mr Jones died, journalists from the Associated Press and the Huntsville Item were reportedly waiting at an office across the street. A prison employee was supposed to come and get them, but never did.

Mr Jones, who was 41, was convicted of murdering his great-aunt, Berthena Bryant, in 1999. His execution was the first in 40 years to take place without journalists present.

Critics of the death penalty blasted the “error.” The American Civil Liberties Union has called for an investigation into what went wrong. Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, questioned the competence of Texas’ justice system.

“If the state with the most experience carrying out executions lacks the competence to carry out this most basic execution function, what does that tell us about what else in the execution process states can’t be trusted to do properly?” he asked The Washington Post.

“If you can botch that, there really isn’t anything else in the process, short of executing the wrong person, that you can’t botch.”

One of the journalists who was supposed to be in the room was Joseph Brown, editor of the Huntsville Item. He objected to the oversight as well, pointing out that the press provides important accountability for executions.

“It is vital that we are there, because they are not going to record nuances, like someone saying, ‘It’s burning,’ or taking deep breaths,” Mr Brown told The New York Times.

Relatives of Mr Jones, including ones who were close to Ms Bryant, had begged Texas’ government to spare his life, but were denied.

“Because I was so close to Bert, her death hurt me a lot,” Mattie Long, Ms Bryant’s sister, wrote in a letter to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. “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.”

In lieu of the journalists, the Texas prison system recorded Mr Jones’ final words.

“I hope I left everyone a plate of food full of happy memories, happiness and no sadness,” he said shortly before his death.

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