Brandon Astor Jones And Roger Tackett

Posted in Library of Congress, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on February 3, 2016







Georgia poisoned convicted killer Brandon Astor Jones early Wednesday morning. Mr. Jones was convicted of killing Roger Tackett in a convenience store robbery. A policeman was on the scene, and heard the shots. There is little doubt of Mr. Jones’ guilt. Here is the story.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the evidence showed that the victim, Roger Tackett, was the manager of a Tenneco convenience store.   On June 16, 1979, he arrived at the store at 11:20 p.m. to close it for the night.   After the other employees left, Tackett remained at the store to complete some paperwork.   At approximately 1:45 a.m., Officer Kendall of the Cobb County police department drove a stranded motorist to the Tenneco parking lot so she could use a pay phone.   Officer Kendall observed a car (Tackett’s) parked in front of the store with the driver’s-side door open;  the lights were also still on inside the store.   Since the Tenneco store was in his regular patrol area, Officer Kendall knew that it usually closed at midnight.   Suspicious, he walked to the store and saw through the front window Brandon Jones stick his head out of the storeroom door at the back of the store, look around (apparently without seeing the officer), and then close the storeroom door.   Officer Kendall entered through the unlocked front door and heard three shots, a pause, and then a fourth shot.   He drew his weapon and after shouting “police, come on out” without a response, approached the storeroom door and opened it.   Jones and his co-defendant, Van Roosevelt Solomon, were standing just inside the door.   Officer Kendall ordered them into the main store area, where he searched them and handcuffed Jones.   He placed Solomon in his patrol car since he only had one set of handcuffs, and called for assistance on the radio.   He also informed both defendants of their rights under Miranda v. Arizona.

A private security officer, Alex Woolyard, heard Officer Kendall’s request for assistance on a police scanner and arrived first.   He loaned Officer Kendall a set of handcuffs to restrain Solomon and watched the defendants while Officer Kendall investigated a van parked nearby.   During this time, Woolyard spoke with Jones and determined that the car parked in front of the store did not belong to them;  they had arrived in the van.   Upon continued questioning by Woolyard, Jones stated that they had come to burglarize the store and found a man who was “bad hurt” in the back of the store.   After handcuffing Jones to a metal pole, Woolyard and Officer Kendall entered the store and discovered that the storeroom door had locked when it shut as the defendants exited.   They used a crowbar to break open the door and they found Tackett’s body lying face-down at one end of the narrow storeroom (Officer Kendall had not seen the victim when he first encountered the defendants in the storeroom since he did not enter the storeroom at that time).   Tackett had been shot five times from behind, once in the jaw, once behind the left ear, once in the thumb, and twice in the right hip.   The medical examiner determined that the fatal shot was the “loose contact” shot behind the left ear since that bullet penetrated the brain;  this shot was probably the final shot and was fired while the victim was lying on the ground.   Two .38 caliber revolvers were found in an open box next to where Officer Kendall had first encountered the defendants.   A large Smith and Wesson contained two spent shells;  a smaller Colt contained four spent shells.   Four .38 caliber bullets were recovered at the scene or in the victim’s body;  the ballistics expert determined that all were probably fired by the Colt. Crime scene photographs also show a possible bullet hole in a shelf on the wall, indicating a fifth shot may have been fired in the storeroom.   An atomic absorption test conducted on swabs of the defendants’ hands indicated that both men had recently fired a gun or handled a recently fired gun.   The store’s cash drawer was found moved from its original place inside the store and wrapped in a plastic bag.   Inside the van, which belonged to Solomon, the police discovered burglary tools, holsters that fit the revolvers and .38 caliber bullets.

The other actor, Van Roosevelt Solomon, was executed in the electric chair February 20, 1985. Here is the final statement of Mr. Soloman. (Brandon Astor Jones did not make a final statement.) “Yes, sir. I wish to make the following statements prior to my death. First, to the family of Roger Tackett, I send to you my remorse for the death of your loved one from the bottom of my heart. I did not kill Roger Tackett, and I remorse deeply for his death. To my supporters I send my—all my deepest respect. Thank you. It was—it has been due to your effort that I have received the degree of justice in my case. To the world, I suggest that people need to reach out more and help the needy and the homeless. To my family and children, I send you all my love, and I want you to know that I love you very much. And do not be bitter. Work hard, be honest in all life, and you will be successful in America. Van Roosevelt Solomon. A moment later: This is Van Solomon again, and I’d like to say to America: how long will America limp between two opinions? How can you counsel someone and don’t even keep your own counsel about killing people. Thank you. In the death chamber: Yes, I’d like to say I’d like to give my blessing to all the people that seeked to save my life, and I’d like to curse everyone that seeked to take my life. Farewell. Here is an audio tape of the execution.

Mr. Jones is 72 years old. The crime was committed in 1979. During those 37 years, Mr. Jones wrote articles, and exchanged letters. One of those pen pals was Michael Marcum. The linked article sheds light on the case of Mr. Jones. For one thing, if the crime were to be committed today, Mr. Jones would probably not be sentenced to death.

“Despite the relative flurry of executions,” a Georgia legal website, the Daily Report, noted last December, “the other end of the death penalty process has slowed significantly.” Georgia did not send a single person to death row in 2015 — a development the Report called the “newsmaker of the year.” …Bridging the disconnect between the “new Georgia,” as Dunham put it, and the state’s recent spate of troubling executions are people like Jones. “We have this very strange situation now in which these people sentenced to death a long time ago — and who managed to get through all the stages of review — are now being executed,” said Stephen Bright, president of the 40-year-old Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. “They almost certainly would not be sentenced to death today.” (In court filings, lawyers for Jones point out that death sentences for killings carried out in the course of a robbery have “fallen into complete extinction.”) Bright describes them as “zombie cases” — convictions that “remind us of just how unfair” the system used to be.”

There is one more story from Michael Marcum: “As he aged in prison, Jones lost some of his longtime supporters. In 2001 he cut ties with the Australian editor of a radical leftist magazine after it refused to publish a column following the 9/11 attacks. In it, Jones expressed sorrow and patriotism while condemning any retaliatory violence against Muslims in their homes or mosques. The essay included a drawing of an American flag he had hung in his cell “at symbolic half mast, midway between the floor and ceiling.” In response, the editor, who was white, accused him of “wrap[ping] himself in the flag under which the white ruling elite in North America enslaved black people.” Jones was deeply offended.”

Pictures are from The Library of Congress. The 1927 pictures were taken at “California Beauty Week, Mark Hopkins Hotel, July 28 to Aug. 2, auspices of San Francisco Chronicle.”






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