Defending Your Life

In Third Trial For Wife's Murder, Man Acts As Own Lawyer

This story originally aired Oct. 15, 2005.

A Washington state wife and mother was brutally stabbed and murdered as she was preparing to take a bath in her home, while her husband was just feet away, in a nearby room.

Police immediately suspected the husband, who was tried twice on murder charges. Incredibly, those verdicts were overturned.

Then, he faced a third trial and took a gamble by defending himself.

Would his strategy work?

"48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Peter Van Sant reports.

Joe Ward remembers the crime scene after Lee Jones was murdered in 1988. A homicide detective for the Snohomish County sheriff's office, he was sent to investigate the killing.

"Mrs. Jones had received a lot of injuries to her body, all over her body. She had over 60 wounds. There were slashes. There were stabs," Ward remembers. "It looked like she had fought for her life in that room. And lost."

Ron Doersch also has ties to the case. He was the deputy prosecuting attorney who tried Jerry Jones Jr., Lee's husband twice before.

Jones told police he heard a noise, responded, and found his wife. As he ran down the hallway, he says, someone brushed by him and pushed him against the wall. He says as he tried to grab the knife his hand was cut.

Ward calls the story "unbelievable."

"Detective Ward begins to realize it just doesn't add up and that he has the murder suspect right in front of him," says Doersch.

The first trial ended with a guilty verdict, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1999 that Jones's lawyer had been ineffective and that the case should be retried.

48 Hours began following the Jones case after he was released, marking the beginning of an incredible legal drama.

A second trial, in 2001, also ended with a guilty verdict. Remarkably, an appeals court reversed that conviction, saying the jury didn't hear crucial evidence.

Doersch says the last ruling left him angry and embittered. "As a prosecutor, there are certain things about cases that resound in your consciousness that affect you on some emotional level. This was one of them."

Meanwhile, Jones, facing a third trial, decided to represent himself.