Lawyer: Cop killer's acts could have been prevented

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014

Joshua Jones
Joshua Jones had an outburst in the courtroom Monday morning. He is the main suspect in the death of an Aiken police officer. (WRDW-TV / Jan. 30, 2012)

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Boyd Young has heard it time and time again. For approximately two years, many have said his client, convicted cop killer 28-year-old Joshua T. Jones, was faking mental illness, most notably in a televised bond hearing in which Jones growled and cussed at the judge and media.

"To chew through both his wrists and to create big missing pieces of flesh and to be standing around in his cell like he was without sleep for days on end, it was clear that he wasn't faking," says Young.

However, Jones will spend the rest of his life behind bars after pleading guilty but mentally ill to murdering Aiken Department of Public Safety Corporal Sandy Rogers on January 28, 2012. But Young, a deputy director of the Capital Trial Division at South Carolina's Commission of Indigent Defense, says his case should be a cause for action.

"I'm not trying to excuse or justify what he did in any way," says Young. "I mean, he is criminally responsible. He knew the difference between right from wrong, and he acted. But he certainly was under the influence of severe mental illness."

"Did the system fail us?" asks News 12 reporter Chad Mills.

"Yes!" Young answers. "I think it failed all of us in this case. It failed Josh, it certainly failed Sandy, and it failed Casey too."

During Jones' plea on Monday, leading psychiatrist Dr. Donna Schwartz-Watts testified that Jones suffers from schizophrenia. She testified that Jones has a "significant mental history." She says his mother suffered physical abuse during pregnancy, he was inundated after birth, Jones was allegedly molested by his uncle, and Jones even shot himself in the head, in an apparent suicide attempt, six months before the crime. Watts says the self-inflicted shooting produced a brain bleed and fractured skull; the psychiatrist says the portion of Jones' brain responsible for emotions was injured.

Young believes the voices in Jones' head led to a suicide attempt.

"I mean, he put the gun right to his temple and pulled the trigger," says Young.

Newly released documents say Jones was taken to Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services, a mental hospital at Aiken Regional Medical Center, but was released only 10 days later with two bottles of pills and a prescription for more, despite being diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Young says, despite continued bizarre behavior, Jones was allowed to self-report to hospital staff that he was ready to be released. Young says he should not have been.

"Putting him back on the street was, you know, putting the community at danger," he says.

Half a year later, Jones killed Rogers after he allegedly killed his pregnant girlfriend Casey Vice in Augusta.

"If we had intervened beforehand, we could have saved lives," says Young.

Young says a quick fix to a broken mental health system is simply helping out people who may have mental problems. He says Aurora Pavilion should have released Jones with a follow-up treatment plan and an appointment to see a mental health professional, if Aurora was to release Jones at all.

News 12 reached out to Aiken Regional for comment but has yet to hear back.

Jones' full psychiatric evaluation that was cited heavily in his plea is attached to this article.

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