“Get him off death row.” Lina Jean, mother of the only Frenchman awaiting execution in the United States, continues to fight to avoid the death penalty for her son. On December 9, 2021, a judge ruled that Joseph Jean, who also has American nationality, had a mental disability limiting his intellectual abilities, and that his sentence should be commuted to life in prison, according to his lawyers.
But the criminal appeals court in Texas – the US state that executes the most – has yet to decide whether to approve this judgment or appeal. For nearly a year, the Frenchman has therefore remained on death row, confined 22 to 23 hours a day in a small cell in a high-security prison.
Sentenced after a double murder
“He is fine” and “reads a lot”, even if he says he suffers from the constant noise of the prison, assures Lina Jean. “I tell him to keep hope, not to give up. Joseph Jean, 50, was sentenced to death in 2011 for a double murder committed in Baytown, near Houston, on April 11, 2010.
That night, he had broken into his ex-girlfriend’s house. She was away, but her daughter was at home with a cousin. Joseph Jean allegedly killed the two 16- and 17-year-old girls with a baseball bat, before setting fire to the apartment and fleeing. He had already been convicted several times for possession of drugs and burglary.
In the United States, a person with a mental disability that restricts their intellectual abilities cannot be sentenced to death, according to a 2002 Supreme Court ruling. personal,” wrote the judge.
States are however free to define the limits of the definition of this disability. Lina Jean would like to be able to prove her son’s innocence one day. In the meantime, she does not hide her impatience at the idea of being able to “touch him, take him in her arms”, once he is released from death row.
It was in prison, and after his death sentence, that Joseph Jean had asked for French nationality, on the advice of his lawyers. Lina Jean had settled in the American Virgin Islands in the early 1970s with her husband, also French. Joseph Jean was born there, thus obtaining American citizenship. According to a French diplomatic source, the French authorities are monitoring the situation of Joseph Jean, and are calling for his sentence to be commuted.