Second Competency Test Ordered in ‘Angel of Death’ Case
Published in Courthouse News Service on Feb. 14, 2019, and co-authored with Erik De La Garza.
Former Texas nurse Genene Jones, who spent the last three decades in prison for the murder of a 15-month-old girl, was ordered to undergo a second competency evaluation Thursday after a first evaluation concluded she can stand trial on five new murder charges.
Bexar County Magistrate Judge Andrew Carruthers ordered both competency and sanity evaluations for Jones, 67, last May at the request of her attorney, Cornelius Cox. The motion came after Cox said Jones may not be competent to stand trial due to strokes she suffered in the mid-1980s, and concerns that she hears voices in her head.
Wearing large, black-rimmed glasses and a blue two-piece prison outfit, Jones clutched tissue due to an apparent cough but remained emotionless. She spoke only to her two attorneys during the hearing, which lasted less than 10 minutes.
Cox said outside the courtroom that if a disagreement arises with the second competency assessment, “we will go forward” to trial.
“It wouldn’t be that far in the future and the citizens of Bexar County will make a determination as to her competency,” Cox said.
A San Antonio grand jury in 2017 indicted Jones in the murders of five young children dating to the early 1980s, reopening a dramatic legal saga that prevented her release under a 1977 mandatory release law meant to curb overcrowded prisons.
She has long been suspected in the deaths of up to 60 infants and young children while she worked in the pediatric intensive care unit at a local hospital, earning her the nickname “Angel of Death.” Prosecutors have said Jones would be held accountable for as many children’s deaths as the evidence will support.
A judge in 1984 sentenced the ex-nurse to concurrent prison terms of 99 years and 60 years for the death of 15-month-old Chelsea McClellan and for injecting a 4-week-old boy with Haparin. The boy survived the attack.
She was grandfathered under a 1977 mandatory release law that would have let her out of state prison. That changed when former District Attorney Nico LaHood approved a task force to investigate Jones, who he called “pure evil” in a 2017 news conference announcing the new charges.
LaHood lost his position in a Democratic primary last year. Current District Attorney Joe Gonzales has rebuffed LaHood’s offer to assist in Jones’ prosecution.
After the hearing Thursday morning, Gonzales said while the evaluations have caused some delay, he doesn’t consider it “unreasonable.”
“We want to make sure that she gets her day in court as well as our victim’s families,” Gonzales said. “We are ready to go forward.”
Jones’ attorney said his client is “doing as well as she could be,” adding her health is “deteriorating a little bit.”
He added, “I imagine it’s very stressful for her.”
Jones faces up to 99 years in prison if convicted. She has been transferred from prison back to San Antonio to await trial on the five new charges.