Victim: Bertis Jones, 68
Age at time of murder: 15
Crime date: August 9, 2004
Crime location: Lee County, Mississippi
Weapons: Steak knife & fillet knife
Murder method: Stabbing eight times
Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP)
Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the South Mississippi Correctional Institution
Jones was 15 when he murdered his grandfather Bertis. He was convicted and sentenced to LWOP for the crime. Jones appealed his sentence to the US Supreme Court. In Jones v. Mississippi, SCOTUS was to decide if juvenile murderers like Jones must be found permanently incorrigible before being sentenced to LWOP. NOVJM filed an amicus brief in support of Mississippi, arguing that such a requirement would harm victims. Bertis’s family was not notified that their case would go before SCOTUS until it was too late. Bertis’s son has released this statement, which contains important information that SCOTUS was not made aware of. In April 2021, SCOTUS ruled against Jones’s claim and upheld his sentence.
At the time of the crime, defendant Brett Jones was 15-years-old and living with his grandparents in Lee County, Mississippi. He had previously been living with his mother in Florida. But he was too violent for her to handle, so she sent him to live with his father and grandparents. During his time in Mississippi, Brett continued his aggressive behavior. At one point, Bertis told his son that he feared he would wake up one night to find Jones standing over him with a knife. Brett’s behavior was so bad that his own grandfather feared being murdered by him. Bertis’s fears came true on August 9, 2004.
On August 9, 2004, Bertis discovered that Jones had been hiding his girlfriend in their house and told her to leave. He also told Jones to stop making costly long-distance phone calls. Jones told his girlfriend that he would hurt his granddaddy. Later, Jones attacked Bertis as he ate dinner, stabbing him eight times with a fillet knife. Jones was charged with murder and the case went to trial. Jones argued that he killed his grandfather in self-defense. The jury found him guilty of murder and the court sentenced him to LWOP.
After the Miller decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court vacated and set aside Jones’s sentence and remanded the case for a new sentencing hearing consistent with Miller. The hearing was held by the Circuit Court of Lee County in 2015 and the court found that Jones was not entitled to parole under Miller. Jones appealed to the Mississippi Court of Appeals which affirmed the Circuit Court’s decision. Jones then sought certiorari from the Mississippi Supreme Court. Mississippi’s Supreme Court granted certiorari in August 2018 and held oral arguments. In November of 2018, the Court found that there was no need for further review and dismissed the certiorari. Jones then filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States. SCOTUS granted the petition on March 9, 2020, after dismissing the Malvo v. Mathena case. SCOTUS heard oral arguments in the fall of 2020 and ruled against Jones in spring 2021.
From our SCOTUS brief
SUMMARY OF FACTS AND CASE
In August 2004, 15-year-old Brett Jones was living with his grandparents, Bertis and Madge Jones, in their Mississippi home. Jones v. State, 285 So. 3d 626, 628 (Miss. Ct. App. 2017). Bertis got upset when he discovered Jones’ teenage runaway girlfriend was secretly
living with him in his bedroom. When an argument between the two ensued, Jones stabbed his 68-year-old grandfather with the steak knife he was using to make a sandwich. Ibid. When the steak knife bent, he grabbed a filet knife and continued to stab his grandfather. As
the two struggled, Jones repeatedly stabbed his grandfather. He then tried to conceal the crime when he hid his grandfather’s body in a utility room in the back of the home’s carport, tried to wash the large amount of blood off of his body with a hose, and moved his grandfather’s car over the “puddles of blood” that collected in the carport. Id., at 628-629.
Jones was convicted of murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Id., at 629. Under the parole statute, he was not eligible for parole. Ibid. Following this Court’s opinion in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U. S. 460 (2012), the Mississippi Supreme Court vacated Jones’ sentence and remanded it for a new sentencing hearing. In 2015, the Circuit Court of Lee County conducted a new sentencing hearing and found Jones was not entitled to parole eligibility under Miller. Jones, 285 So. 3d, at 629-631. Jones appealed and the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s decision. Jones then successfully sought certiorari from the Mississippi Supreme Court. Jones v. State, 250 So. 3d 1269 (Miss. 2018). In November 2018, the court, in a 5-4 decision, voted to dismiss the writ of certiorari finding that there was no need for further review. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 1a-2a
This Court granted certiorari on March 9, 2020.
Daddy agreed to let my brother’s son Brett live with him in Mississippi. Brett had been living in Florida with his mother, but he was too violent. He attacked and injured his stepfather and was unmanageable. So my father agreed to take him in. Two months later he was dead.
Brett was a defiant young man. He drew disturbing pictures depicting people killing each other with knives. One picture I remember showed a man with his head cut off and another man with a knife. Brett was also very unruly and aggressive. He did whatever he wanted whenever he wanted and refused to do what he was told. He liked doing what he knew was wrong. When my father tried to speak with him about his behavior he would become very abrasive and argue. He would also get angry and fight when he was asked to do chores or clean his room. Brett also lied a lot.
My father was a disciplined man and had never had to deal with someone like Brett. His wife, my mother, did not help try to discipline Brett because she did not know how to deal with him. Brett’s father, my brother, who lived with Daddy and Brett also did not help discipline him.
As time went on, Brett’s behavior became worse. About two weeks before the murder, Daddy came over to help work on my house. He was very upset and told me that he feared he would wake up one night and Brett would be standing there with a knife. He was scared that his own grandson would kill him. His fears later came true. This has haunted me. Brett was in a safe, loving home. He went to church with my family and ate supper with us and I had a conversation with him letting him know I would be there to help him with anything he needed.
One day, Daddy found that Brett had been hiding his 13-year-old girlfriend in their house without permission. He was also making long-distance calls to Florida, which cost Daddy a lot of money. After Daddy confronted Brett about this, Brett became very mad. Brett’s girlfriend testified that he said he would hurt his granddaddy. Later, as Daddy was sitting and eating dinner, Brett attacked him from behind with a steak knife. When the steak knife broke, he went to the kitchen and got a fillet knife. Daddy went out of the door and tried to escape. But Brett attacked him again on the porch. My father collapsed in the yard. He died from a stab wound that severed an artery in his heart. After murdering my Daddy, Brett hid his body in the utility room. A neighbor called the police after seeing Brett hiding in the bushes with blood on him. Me, my wife, and our son were there when Daddy’s body was discovered. This was and has been a horrible memory to live with.
Brett was convicted of the first-degree murder of Daddy and sentenced to life without parole. He is now arguing to the Supreme Court that his sentence is cruel and unusual because he is not “permanently incorrigible.”