The first indication that something was amiss came when Jeffrey Scott Jones slumped suddenly in the Southern California courtroom.
His head struck the table in front of him, and shocked attorneys saw blood streaming from his neck.
Jones, 56, had been on trial in Orange County Superior Court on Wednesday, accused of sexually assaulting and raping a girl when she was 13, according to court documents.
A jury had just found the Huntington Beach man guilty when he pulled a standard razor blade out of his pocket and slit his throat, officials later said.
“Right after the judge asked if we wanted jurors polled, both attorneys said no, and then he took a razor out of his left pocket and slashed his throat,” senior deputy district attorney Heather Brown told CBS Los Angeles. “His head hit the table and I thought he fainted — but then I saw the blood and the razor on the table.”
Authorities are investigating how Jones could have snuck a razor blade into court and whether the court needs to review its security measures, a court spokeswoman said.
Jones had been free on bail during the trial, the CBS affiliate reported.
Jones was rushed to a hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, according to the Orange County Register. His defense attorney, Ed Welbourn, told the paper that Jones had not shown previous signs of mental distress and that the incident shocked him as much as anybody else.
“It was totally unexpected and very unfortunate,” Welbourn said. “I didn’t see it happen — my attention was on the jury — but, from what people tell me, he had a blade somewhere in his clothing and he pulled it out when the verdicts were read.”
According to county court records, the jury convicted Jones of two felony counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one felony count of continuous sexual abuse.
Court records show that Jones was accused of sexually assaulting the 13-year-old girl between Sept. 1, 2012, and April 30, 2013, “by touching the victim’s chest and vagina over her clothing and under her clothing on different occasions.”
Jones was accused of raping the girl on two dates in 2013 and “stating that he would ruin her life if she told anyone what he was doing,” the Orange County district attorney’s office said in a statement.
After the rapes, the victim went to a friend’s home and Jones went to get her. The friend’s mother refused to allow him to take the girl, the district attorney’s office said.
In May 2013, the crimes were reported to the Huntington Beach Police Department, which investigated. Jones was arrested the following month.
During the trial, Brown, the prosecutor, sketched a picture of tumultuous years for the girl, who was placed in youth homes and a juvenile hall and had even lived on the streets since the abuse, according to the Register.
Brown also told jurors that a test performed on the girl had turned up Jones’s DNA, the paper reported.
Welbourn, the defense attorney, argued that members of Jones’s household used the same shower, bathroom, towels and other items, in trying to explain how the defendant’s DNA could have ended up on the girl, CBS Los Angeles reported.
He accused the girl of making up the allegations because she was smoking marijuana and trying to hide it, according to the station.
Jurors deliberated for about two hours before finding Jones guilty, the news station reported.
The district attorney’s office said that when the crimes took place, Jones was an advanced-placement English teacher at Libra Academy in Huntington Park, a few miles south of downtown Los Angeles.
Before that, Jones taught for 27 years at high schools in Bell and Cerritos, Calif.
The victim, referred to as “Jane Doe,” was not one of Jones’s students, the DA’s office stated.
Jones is scheduled to reappear in court on Nov. 4 for sentencing, a court calendar shows. He faces a maximum of 68 years to life in state prison, according to the district attorney’s office.
Gwen Vieau, a court spokeswoman, said in a statement there will be resources available to staff members and jurors who may feel disturbed by what they saw in court Wednesday.
“I don’t know if any other defendant has tried to harm himself or herself in one of the courtrooms in the past,” Vieau told The Washington Post in an email.
There have been a handful of instances in recent years in which a defendant has tried to harm himself or herself — or even committed suicide — while in court.
In 2012, Michael Marin quickly ingested a cyanide pill in a downtown Phoenix courtroom just after he was convicted of arson, according to the Arizona Republic. Authorities ruled his death a suicide.
The following year, a Missouri man committed suicide by swallowing a cyanide pill in court, just after he was convicted of sodomizing a 14-year-old girl, CBS affiliate KCTV reported.
In June, a 41-year-old American man living in Taiwan plunged a sharp object into his neck in a Taiwanese courtroom after being found guilty of drug possession charges.
“I don’t want to live anymore,” Tyrel Martin Marhanka yelled, before stabbing himself in the neck and severing at least one artery, witnesses told the Taipei Times.
“We deeply regret that Tyrel Martin Marhanka killed himself during the sentencing,” the court said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse. “He was cooperative during the investigation and the trial. His attitude was mild and he did not show any signs that he would commit suicide.”