Former WUSF disc jockey receives new murder trial — (The Tampa Tribune)

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The Tampa Tribune

DAVID RICE of The Winston-Salem Journal

9 November 1996


SUMMARY: A former Tampa disc jockey who was convicted of shooting his estranged wife in a jealous rage is granted a new trial.   RALEIGH, N.C. – The North Carolina Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a former Tampa disc jockey convicted of murdering his estranged wife as she arrived for work in July 1994.

The court ruled a judge should have appointed a psychiatric expert to help prepare Ben Jones’ defense.    Jones, a DJ from 1986 to 1990 for WUSF-FM, known as Concert 90, was convicted in August 1995 of first-degree murder in the July 23, 1994, death of his wife, Lisa Jane Jones, 33. He was sentenced to life in prison.

WUSF officials fired him after learning he lied about his educational background on his resume.   The court ruled Jones, 50, is entitled to a new trial because the judge denied his request for a psychiatric expert to help prepare his defense.   Jones testified he shot his wife in a jealous rage. She had developed a relationship with a man she had worked with at a Kmart in Richmond, Va., where the Joneses had lived. Lisa Jones had only recently moved to Wilkesboro when she was killed.

Witnesses said they saw Ben Jones drag his wife out of her car as she arrived for work at a Kmart in Wilkesboro, N.C., and then shot her fives times in the head.   He was arrested six months later in Calhoun, Ga.

Before the trial, Jones’ attorney asked Judge Julius Rousseau of Wilkes Superior Court to appoint a psychiatric expert to evaluate Jones. He presented evidence Jones had been treated for depression, hypertension and suicidal tendencies by a doctor in Richmond, in the months just before the killing and the doctor had prescribed Prozac and other medications.

Jones’ attorney said a psychiatric evaluation was crucial to his client’s defense because the case would revolve around the questions of premeditation and deliberation.   Rousseau denied that request. The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that he shouldn’t have.

The opinion by Associate Justice Willis Whichard cited a 1985 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. Any time sanity at the time of an offense is to be a significant issue in a trial, the federal court ruled, the state must assure a defendant has access to a competent psychiatrist for an examination and help with preparing a defense.

“Defendant’s mental state at the time of the murder was the only triable issue of fact in this case,” Whichard wrote. “He was entitled to present information on this issue to the jury in an intelligible manner so as to assist it in making an informed and sensible determination.”

The court ordered a new trial and said that the judge must appoint a psychiatric expert.

(Copyright 1996)