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A Texas former nurse had her final conviction upheld by a Texas appeals court on Wednesday, paving the way for her to spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Genene Jones, 71, was first convicted in 1984 of the crime of injury to a child for injecting a 4-week-old boy identified in 1983 by the Texas Monthly as Rolando Santos, with the blood thinner heparin at the hospital at which she worked as a pediatric nurse in San Antonio, Texas in January 1982 (he survived) and of the murder of Chelsea McClellan, 15 months, in nearby Kerrville, Texas where she went to work as a nurse after leaving the hospital in San Antonio. She was sentenced to 60 years and 99 years, respectively, but, because of a 1977 law that has since been repealed, was scheduled for mandatory release in 2018.
That changed in June 2017, when then-Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood indicted Jones in five more child murders from her time at the hospital in San Antonio: Richard Nelson, 8 months, on July 3, 1981; Rosemary Vega, 2 years, on Sept. 16, 1981; Paul Villarreal, 3 months, on Sept. 24, 1981; Joshua Sawyer, 11 months, on Dec. 12, 1981; and Patrick Zavala, 4 months, on Jan. 17, 1982. (Jones left the hospital in March 1982, and joined the new practice of a doctor in Kerrville in August 1982, according to the Texas Monthly.)
In an agreement with prosecutors in January 2020, Jones accepted a guilty plea in one murder: that of 11-month-old Joshua Sawyer. It kept her in prison beyond 2017, but allowed her to be eligible for parole in 2037, when, if she is still alive, she will be 87 years old.
"With this plea, the odds are she will take her last breath in prison," said Bexar County District Attorney chief of major crimes Catherine Babbitt in a statement at the time, as reported by USA Today. Babbit also noted that no definitive motive was ever established for Jones' crimes.
But as part of that agreement, Jones reserved her right to appeal a motion she made before her plea, according to the Courthouse News Service.
Jones appealed her final conviction on the basis of a motion to dismiss the 2017 case against her that was denied by a trial court. She and her lawyers argued that the decision to indict her on the almost-30-year-old murders of which she had long been suspect a year before she was scheduled for release violated her right to a speedy trial and her right to due process.
The court dismissed her speedy trial claim, noting that the clock for a speedy trial starts ticking only after a suspect is indicted. They then considered whether the delay in charging her on the other murder(s) was intended to prevent her from obtaining a fair trial, and heard evidence that changes in the law since her initial trial, at which the direct evidence of her guilt in those cases was deemed more necessary for a conviction to survive appeal, and the addition of newly gathered evidence gave them new reason to file the additional charges beyond any wish to keep her incarcerated.
The court then ruled that there was sufficient reason to believe that there were reasons to prosecute Jones in 2017, beyond her pending 2018 release, and dismissed her appeal.
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