Defense attorney: ‘Nine minutes’ between Laurel killings could take death penalty off the table

Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 5:29 PM CST
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - For the first time, prosecutors have offered a timeline for the quadruple homicides that happened in Laurel, Nebraska, last August.

They say the murders, which happened at two separate crime scenes several blocks apart, took place just nine minutes apart. And, those nine minutes are a basis for the defendant, Jason Jones, to argue the death penalty should be taken off the table.

Prosecutors allege Jason Jones took nine minutes between his first three alleged murders and his last one at a different location. A judge will have to decide if those nine minutes constitute a single criminal transaction. If not, the death penalty could be taken off the table.

“The Supreme Court clarified that that means in the same transaction. But it’s not really clear what the same transaction means. Is it two separate murders? (Is it) one same conspiracy, is not clear,” said Todd Lancaster, agency counsel for the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy.

During a hearing Monday, Jones’ lawyer also argued the Nebraska death penalty system, in which three judges ultimately decide on the sentence, is unconstitutional.

“And, there’s some question and my argument is it should be more, there should be more standards and oversight than just the prosecutors from the county,” said Lancaster.

Prosecutors didn’t introduce any exhibits of evidence at Monday’s hearing but argued Nebraska has a long history of allowing the death penalty. Lancaster acknowledged that the state Supreme Court has often ruled against him, though he feels the need to use all available arguments given the significance of the case.

The judge indicated he’d rule sometime after March 17, when the final briefing of the motion to quash the death penalty is due.

Lancaster said the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy provides death penalty defense lawyers at no cost to counties.

His wife, Carrie Jones, is also charged with one the murders. She’ll have a preliminary hearing on Wednesday in Cedar County Court at 1 p.m.