No one, not even William R. Jones Jr., disputes that Jones killed Stanley Albert, whom he'd met at a Kansas City park frequented by gay men, in January 1986.
The question is why.
Former prosecutor Patrick Peters says it was a cold-blooded execution-style murder over a shiny new Camaro that Albert had and Jones wanted.
Defense attorney Charlie Rogers says Jones, whom he described as "probably bisexual," freaked out when the older Albert made sexual advances on him. He said Jones was later diagnosed with ego dystonic-homosexuality, a discomfort with one's homosexual inclinations, along with borderline personality disorder.
Jones is scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday at the Potosi Correctional Center unless his attorneys can persuade federal courts to take another look at the case. Rogers said Jones' private defense team at trial was inept.
Rogers said the defense team failed to make a plea offer in exchange for a lighter sentence -- a request the former prosecutor said he likely would have granted. Nor did the defense team explore Jones' mental status, the effects of being raised in a dysfunctional, abusive family, or the brain damage he suffered from an attack by two men five months prior to the Albert killing.
With such mitigating evidence, jurors might have decided on life in prison or a lesser charge of second-degree murder, his current legal team said.
Rogers said Jones' mother paid the trial attorneys $3,000 on a $40,000 legal bill and not a cent more.
"He got what she paid for," Rogers said, adding that one of the lawyers is disbarred and another now works as a pit boss in a riverboat casino.
A Jackson County jury convicted Jones, now 37, and recommended the death penalty after defense lawyers offered nothing to mitigate the case. Peters, a former assistant Jackson County prosecutor who is now in private practice, said he has mixed feelings about the death penalty, but none of them apply to this case.
He said Jones had plotted the murder for weeks, shooting Albert five times with a .22-caliber gun on Jan. 16, 1986, leaving him near a park in Independence. Investigators found Albert's body six weeks later.
"I don't wish the death penalty on anybody, but this is the only case I've seen where a murder has been planned for days ... and he takes him to a park and executes him," Peters said. "He knew Stanley Albert had an ex-wife, a child, a mother. He cold-bloodedly executed this guy."
Rogers said that five months before the Albert shooting, Jones had suffered a skull fracture, severe head trauma and brain damage after a vicious attack by two men, which led him to begin carrying a gun.
As a youth, Jones also suffered head injuries and probable brain damage from abuse by his father and others. Once, his father broke a guitar over his head. Rogers said none of this was brought out at trial.
Rogers said Jones met Albert at a Kansas City park and that a non-sexual friendship developed over the possibility that Jones would buy Albert's Camaro. They later met for a picnic at a park in Independence, when Albert made sexual advances, and Jones killed him in self-defense, Rogers said.
Rogers said Jones came from an abusive, chaotic family where the parents had sex in front of their children, and a sister, Kathy Norton, got her brother involved in exotic dancing.
"He had a very confused sexuality ... and (the advances) triggered panic and a dissociative state," Rogers said.
Previous appeals based on ineffective trial counsel have failed, but Rogers is trying again, encouraged by a ruling Monday in which the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider when death row inmates with bad lawyers deserve a second chance. The court could use the case to give death row inmates more room to argue that their lawyers were inadequate.
The case has drawn attention in Europe, where opposition to the death penalty is strong, because Jones married an Austrian woman he met over the Internet.
Defense attorneys have petitioned Gov. Bob Holden for clemency, and forwarded letters from Austria's ambassador and foreign minister, among other European officials, to spare his life.
On Tuesday, the France-based Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort, part of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, will hold a news conference asking Holden to grant clemency.
Gerti Jones, 42, described her husband as charming, intelligent, "extremely sensitive" and a "great artist."
She said she trusts Jones will not be executed because "it cannot be that ... justice turns a blind eye to him."