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Quintin Jones is on death row for killing his great-aunt. The victim's sister is pleading for clemency.

Death row inmate pleading to have life spared
Death row inmate pleading to have life spared... 04:56

A Texas death row inmate scheduled to be executed on May 19 is pleading with Governor Greg Abbott to spare his life.

Quintin Jones was convicted of killing his great-aunt in 1999 when he was 20 years old. His supporters say Jones turned his life around in prison, and is remorseful. 

Members of Jones' family are also hoping his execution will be stopped.

Texas leads the nation in executions each year, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Of the six people expected to be put to death in 2021, five of them are in Texas.  

Now, Jones is making a final plea on his own behalf, in hopes he will not be one of them. With the help of the New York Times, he made a video asking Abbott to grant him clemency — stopping his execution, but keeping him behind bars.

"All I'm asking you to do, Governor Abbott, is give me a second chance at life," Jones said in the video.

A reporter asks Jones how he is different from the 20-year-old who was put on death row 21 years ago.

Jones paused for a moment.

"More thoughtful, love myself more," he answered, his voice cracking with emotion.

Jones does not deny that in 1999, he brutally killed his great-aunt Berthena Bryant for $30 to buy drugs. 

His great-aunt Mattie Long — the victim's sister — said she has forgiven Jones.

"I love him very much," she told CBS News' Omar Villafranca. 

Long said she and Bryant were extremely close. She does not believe Jones should die.

"I think the governor should spare him, because he has changed and he's a different person than he used to be," she said.

Writer Suleika Jaouad wrote a recent opinion article advocating for Jones' clemency because she believes he has transformed his life.

"He had an unimaginably difficult childhood of abuse and violence and addiction and neglect, but as he said to me, his childhood did not excuse what he did," she said.

Jones and Jaouad have been pen pals for roughly a decade. She said he helped her get through her cancer treatment.

"I've had the privilege of witnessing his compassion, his thoughtfulness," Jaouad said. "And I'm not the only one. He's had many other pen pals around the world, and this had a huge impact on their lives as well."

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Texas death penalty case costs an average of $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years.

Support for the death penalty is declining across the U.S. According to a 2019 Gallup poll, only 36% of Americans chose the death penalty when asked whether the death penalty or life without possibility of parole "is the better penalty for murder."

"When you look at a case like this one, really the only question is whether people believe that the death penalty is an appropriate kind of punishment for this particular set of facts," said Paul Cassell, a professor at the College of Law at the University of Utah.

Cassell said there were only two arguments that could be made in support of the death penalty.

"One is the utilitarian argument that we can deter crime by imposing the most serious punishment for first-degree murder," he said. "And the other is the retributive argument, that if we look backward, we want the punishment to fit the crime."

Governor Abbott, a Republican, has only granted clemency to someone on death row once.

Jones said in his plea recorded by the New York Times that he knows clemency would not mean freedom.

"I know instead of dying on the 19th, I'll die years later. But it won't be in the free world. It'll be in prison. And I can accept that because there's other avenues in prison that I can take to better myself and better others along the way," he said.

More than 120,000 people have signed a Change.org petition asking Abbott to grant Jones clemency. The governor's office has not responded to CBS News' request for comment.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is considering clemency. Once it decides, it will send its recommendation to the governor.

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