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People Top 5
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- June 11, 1990
- Vol. 33
- No. 23
Electrician Sam Jones Has No Misgivings About His Part-Time Job as An Executioner
During the morning following the execution, Jones, 6'1" and dressed in white boa-skin cowboy boots and blue jeans, sits in the backyard of his daughter's house—the trickle of a pool filter is punctuated by the occasional bzzzt of an insect flying into an electric bug burner—and displays the acrylic painting he has just finished. Completing a picture is a ritual he has followed after each of the 19 executions he has performed since 1983, when he accepted the job. "I guess once I put it [the execution] on canvas, it don't exist no more," says Jones, 49, his red hair and blue eyes illuminated by the sun. Though there was broad support for the commutation of Prejean's sentence—he was thought to have suffered brain damage during an abusive childhood and was 17 when he killed Trooper Donald Cleveland, who had stopped the car in which Prejean was riding for a traffic violation—Jones refuses to distinguish between one condemned man and another: "They all look the same. It's just a procedure, and they happen to be a part of it."
In fact, the $23-an-hour electrician believes his moonlighting job serves society. "Somebody's got to speak for the victims," he says. A policeman in Baton Rouge for three years in the '70s, Jones maintains an eye-for-an-eye view of the world: "These executions are taking way too long," he declares. "These stays are all the same. They ought to put a stop to 'em."
Besides, the stays are costly for Jones. When an execution is stayed at the last minute, Jones is paid $150. Figuring his travel expenses to Angola, frequently from distant work sites, and the loss of his regular pay, Jones says he has probably lost money as an executioner.
At about noon Jones pours himself three fingers of vodka, staining it lightly with cranberry juice. Do the executions solve anything? "Yeah," says Jones. "They eliminate problems one at a time. Dalton Prejean is never going to murder nobody again."
January 30, 2015
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