If you’ve ever watched a show that involves a mystery or detectives or murder, you’ve seen someone claim “not guilty by reason of insanity.” This is every bad lawyer’s trump card on Law & Order and it rarely fails because proving someone’s sanity always turns out to be incredibly difficult for our favorite lovable-but-tough detectives. In the real world, however, a plea of insanity doesn’t come often and when it does, it garners a lot of attention. So, when the South Carolina man Timothy Jones pled not guilty to the murder of his five children — Merah, 8; Elias, 7; Nahthan, 6; Gabriel, 2; and Abigail Elaine, 1 — by way of insanity, Courtney King, a local news reporter, decided it was time to investigate the crime and the plea, all in real time as the trial has developed. She chose to make a podcast, Timothy Jones Trial, and I had the chance to ask her all about it.
“Timothy Jones Trial follows a capital murder trial and a death penalty trial in real time,” Courtney told me. “[The crime] is a local tragedy. A father is accused of killing his five children, and he did confess to it, however he’s pleading not guilty by reason of insanity.” Courtney’s research shows that this kind of plea is incredibly rare — no one has ever been found not guilty by reason of insanity in South Carolina — and she wanted the chance to examine how it would actually play out in court on the show. She was also interested in the sentencing phase, considering “South Carolina hasn’t executed an inmate since 2011” and “right now there’s a bill floating around in the State House that would add firing squad and possibly bring the electric chair back.” With all of this news swirling around the death penalty, Courtney wanted to inform people about what was happening, and decided a podcast was the best way to do that.
When I asked her why that was, she told me that news reports just didn’t provide the space necessary to really explore what was happening. “In TV news we only get a minute-thirty, maybe two minutes for our story and there are so many elements to this and so much testimony,” she said. “For the news, we just go for that one big element of the trial a day, and a lot of the other stuff is barely heard.” Timothy Jones Trial made sure that Courtney had room to include as much as possible from the trial in order to allow people to decide what they think of the crime, using in-court testimony, interviews with people from the community, and her journalistic talent to weave together a complete narrative.
But there was another that Courtney wanted to call attention to on Timothy Jones Trial: the children. “I’ve watched a lot of true crime documentaries and listened to a lot of true crime podcasts and often you see people getting very involved in the whodunnit,” Courtney said. “And with this being a very sensitive case, with the death of five children, I wanted to make sure that we’re hearing about the children.” So Courtney has worked hard to represent those in the neighborhood, babysitters, and family members of the five children by sharing their courtroom testimonies. “I want to make sure people know all five of the victim’s names,” Courtney told me, explaining that her focus is on making the children known instead of highlighting gruesome details.
New episodes are released weekly to include updates on the trial and will continue through the sentencing process as well. Courtney also assured me that, even if Timothy Jones Trial has technically ended, she will post updates if any come up. So, if you want to see true crime unfold in real time, listen to Timothy Jones Trial and be sure to leave a rating and review to let Courtney know what you think.