February 3, 2016
Brandon Astor Jones (72) is executed for a murder committed nearly 37 years before
Around 1:45 a.m. on June 17, 1979, a police officer arrived at a convenience store managed by Roger Tackett (35), to let a stranded motorist use the pay phone. The officer knew the store closed at midnight and was surprised to see lights still on inside. He looked through the front window to see Brandon Astor Jones peering from the storeroom door at the back of the building. The officer then heard three shots, a pause, and a fourth shot. The officer drew his gun and entered the building to find Jones and Van Roosevelt Solomon.
Jones initially claimed he and Solomon had arrived at the store to find Tackett “bad hurt” in the back of the shop. When both men were handcuffed the officer searched the storeroom which had locked when it closed behind Solomon and Jones. A crowbar was used to pry the door open, and the officer found Tackett’s body in a pool of blood. His autopsy revealed he had two gunshot wounds to his right hip, one in his jaw, one behind his left ear, and one to his thumb. At trial, the prosecution contended Tackett’s thumb had been wounded 2 hours before his death, shot by his killers to coerce him into revealing the location of the store’s bank deposit. The defense, however, argued the injury occurred when Tackett was shot behind his ear.
Gunshot residue was found on the hands of both men, which indicated both had either recently fired a gun or had handled a gun which had been recently fired. Both blamed the other for the murder, both were convicted, and both were sentenced to death. Solomon was executed in the electric chair in February of 1985.
In 1989, a federal judge ordered a new sentencing hearing for Jones on a technicality involving jurors being allowed to bring a Bible into the deliberation room during Jones’ trial. After a delay in which Jones’ case “fell through the cracks,” he was again sentenced to death in 1997.
By the time Jones was scheduled to be executed he was in his 70s, and his advanced age raised some concerns. Tackett’s daughter, who was 7 when her father was killed, said during a 2016 interview, “I know he’s an older man. But it’s not my fault it’s taken 36 years for this whole thing to run its course through this very slow system that we have. I wish it wasn’t the case.”
Jones’ appeals were rejected and his execution proceeded as scheduled. Technicians took roughly an hour to find a suitable vein, and 6 minutes into the procedure Jones opened his eyes and appeared to look at the man who had prosecuted him in 1979.
Cook, Rhonda. “Execution still set for oldest man on Georgia’s death row.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived: September 4, 2016. Accessed: February 3, 2021. https://www.ajc.com/news/local/execution-still-set-for-oldest-man-georgia-death-row/hRZWTSfcaK6QzqwZXoynfK/
Cook, Rhonda. “Georgia executes Brandon Astor Jones.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Archived: September 4, 2016. Accessed: February 3, 2021. https://www.ajc.com/news/local/georgia-executes-brandon-astor-jones/jDioe9hdPGv2oj7mhVehnM/
Rogers, Katie. “Georgia’s Oldest Death Row Inmate Is Executed.” The New York Times. February 3, 2016. Accessed: February 3, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/04/us/georgias-oldest-death-row-inmate-is-executed.html
“Brandon Astor Jones, Georgia’s oldest Death Row inmate, scheduled for execution.” AL.com. February 2, 2016. Updated: January 13, 2019. Accessed: February 3, 2021. https://www.al.com/news/2016/02/brandon_astor_jones_georgias_o.html
Cook, Rhonda. “Family’s 36-year wait for justice nears end.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. January 30, 2016
Cook, Rhonda. “Who will watch the execution?” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. January 30, 2016
Brumback, Kate. “Georgia to execute its oldest death row inmate next month.” The Seattle Times. January 13, 2016. Accessed: February 3, 2021. https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/georgia-to-execute-its-oldest-death-row-inmate-next-month/
Jones v. State. 539 S.E.2d 154 (2000). 273 Ga. 231. JONES v. The STATE. No. S00P1316. Supreme Court of Georgia. November 20, 2000. Archived: https://law.justia.com/cases/georgia/supreme-court/2000/s00p1316-1.html
Montgomery, Bill. “Solomon’s lawyers make 11th-hour appeal for clemency.” The Atlanta Constitution. February 19, 1985