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Stay for Gulf GI's Execution Is Denied

Bush, Supreme Court reject a request by veteran, who claims war injury led him to kill.

March 18, 2003|From Associated Press

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — President Bush and the U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to block the execution of a decorated Gulf War veteran who says severe brain damage from his exposure to Iraqi nerve gas led him to kill.

Louis Jones Jr., convicted of killing a female soldier, is scheduled to be executed by injection today at the U.S. penitentiary near Terre Haute.

Bush rejected Jones' request to commute his death sentence to life in prison without parole, said Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo.

A senior administration official said the decision stemmed from a belief that Jones was tried and convicted by a jury of his peers in a "heinous, premeditated murder."

As the execution neared, Jones met Monday with his 22-year-old daughter, his attorney and two spiritual advisors. Attorney Timothy Floyd said his client had been hopeful as he awaited word on whether Bush would consider his request to commute his death sentence to life in prison.

"He was really remarkably strong and I think at peace with whatever happens. I attribute that to his deep faith -- I think that's sustained him through this," Floyd said before Bush's decision was announced.

Jones, 53, admitted kidnapping 19-year-old Pvt. Tracie Joy McBride from a Texas Air Force base, raping her and beating her to death with a tire iron.

His attorneys filed a late appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high court refused Monday to grant a stay blocking the execution. The court did not comment on its decision. Jones' appeal claimed the federal death penalty is unconstitutional under a 2002 court ruling.

In his request for executive clemency, Jones argues he suffered brain damage from sarin nerve gas wafting from an Iraqi weapons depot destroyed by American troops in March 1991 after the Gulf War ended.

During Jones' trial, defense experts testified he suffered brain damage from abuse as a child and post-traumatic stress from his combat tours.

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