As we work on future installments of Vile, we wanted to offer more explanation behind something you heard about in our last episode featuring longtime Kerr County District Attorney Ron Sutton.
He prosecuted Genene Jones in her 1984 trial for the death of Chelsea McClellan.
Sutton said he chose to go after a 99-year sentence, rather than life, for Genene Jones because he thought the number would make the biggest impression on the jury, as well as the public, following the case.
“99. Really it rang out like a big bell all across the country in the medical profession and everywhere else. 99, when you think about it, that’s a long damn time. It sticks with you and you remember it,” Sutton said.
The death penalty was not an option because Sutton said, at that time, the murder of a child was not considered capital murder. Jones was also only being tried for one child's death in 1984.
We've also mentioned an old Texas "mandatory release" law that would have allowed Jones to get out of prison had she not been charged in additional murder cases stemming from her time as a nurse in the 1980s.
The Bexar County Criminal District Attorney's office clarified this, saying that Jones would have been eligible for mandatory release whether the sentence was 99 years, as she received, or a life sentence.
The DA's office released the following statement:
"The way it works is someone who qualifies for mandatory release will be released at the same time, whether they have a life sentence or 99-year sentence. But, once they are released, the person with the 99-year sentence would be theoretically able to get off of parole if they live to be 100+ years (their age at sentencing +99 years). A person with a life sentence will always remain under the jurisdiction of the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole until they die. Since no one has ever actually lived as long as it would take to get off of parole after their age at conviction +99 years, this difference is meaningless."
Click here to see the original 1984 jury verdict form.
As we reported, Jones is currently being held in Bexar County Jail on five new murder charges.
We'll take a deeper dive into the mandatory release law and how it works in a future episode.
In our next episode, we'll look into Jones' background.
"She had kind of a stormy early life. It obviously took on a different direction after she becomes a nurse and was suspected of harming kids under her care. I started working the story, and I spent literally months driving around the Hill Country and San Antonio talking with people who knew Genene Jones. It was just a matter of being on the road, and people were really gracious with me about talking with me and telling me the story of what happened," The Death Shift author Peter Elkind said.
KENS 5 is taking a look back at the history of the Genene Jones case and following new developments in the Vile podcast. This is an ongoing project. If you are connected to the case, and you would like to speak with us, email firstname.lastname@example.org.