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)
News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, Dec. 7, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- It was a bond hearing that sent shockwaves throughout the region. Accused cop-killer Joshua Tremaine Jones cussed and growled at a magistrate judge at his hearing inside the Aiken County Detention Center a couple months shy of a year ago.
Jones convulsed as Associate Chief Magistrate Judge Donna Williamson presided over the hearing. When she asked if he would need a public defender, he responded "What do you think, G** d*****!" Click here to see raw video from the hearing.
Now, News 12 joins professor Ken Gaines at the University of South Carolina School of Law to ask him what he thinks as a former criminal defense attorney.
"The defendant was obviously disturbed in some way. That's what it looked like," Gaines said.
Just last week, several more smaller charges were tacked on in Aiken County, including failure to stop for police lights, unlawful carrying of a pistol, larceny and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
On Jan. 27 of this year, a resident contacted the Aiken Department of Public Safety in reference to a suspicious vehicle at Eustis Park around 7:30 a.m. Chief Charles Barranco said Officer Sandy Rogers arrived on scene, an altercation ensued and she was shot. She was then was transported to Aiken Regional Medical Centers, where she died from her injuries. Rogers was a 27-year veteran of law enforcement.
Richmond County is also pursuing two murder charges for Jones after he allegedly killed his girlfriend, 21-year-old Cayce Vice, who was 5 months pregnant. Only a couple hours later, he allegedly shot and killed Rogers in Aiken.
But will the mental antics Jones displayed in the bond hearing make a difference in the trial?
"The courts are going to have to determine, whatever mental problem there is, to what extent it's going to interfere with the judicial process," Gaines said.
Last week, the Aiken County Solicitor's Office announced it's seeking the death penalty for Stephon Carter, the other accused cop-killer, who allegedly shot and killed Public Safety Officer Scott Richardson about a month before Rogers died in the line of duty.
But will they seek death for Jones?
South Carolina Code says the death penalty can be recommended for certain aggravated circumstance. In this case, Gaines says, the circumstances include someone who allegedly kills multiple people or allegedly murders a law enforcement officer.
However, certain factors (mitigating circumstances) could block death, including if the "defendant had mental retardation at the time of the crime."
"Our Supreme Court has said that even if you plead guilty but mentally ill, you can still get the death penalty,” Gaines said.
In January, after the bond hearing, James Jones, the father of Joshua, told News 12 his son has suffered from mental problems in the past. Jones said his son stabbed him when he was 16 years old. He said last year, between July and August, Jones shot himself in the head. He says his son was treated at Aiken Regional Medical Center and then moved for further treatment at Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services.
"It's got to be the work of Satan. It's a spirit world that is way beyond us," he said, after watching his son’s behavior during the bond hearing.
Ultimately, Gaines says the defendant's mental state will be something a jury considers after it's determined whether Jones can stand trial or not.
"I would assume that the state could request that their experts examine him, so both sides will get a chance to present evidence as to what his mental condition is,” Gaines told News 12.
Recently, Jones has also been charged for bad behavior at the Aiken County Detention Center.
In early July, Cpt. Nick Gallam, the jail administrator, told News 12 Jones yanked a deputy’s arm through the food hole on the door of his maximum security cell, which caused the deputy minor cuts.
The next day, Jones allegedly assaulted three other deputies. When they got Jones under control, Gallam says Jones spit on the three officers.