ELYRIA — Vincent Jackson Jr.’s head hung down as the video of him killing Qiana Walton played in court Tuesday. He jerked upright when the fatal gunshot rang out.
Earlier in the hearing, Jackson, 33, apologized to Walton’s family for gunning down the Gas USA clerk during a June 14, 2008, robbery and asked that they forgive him.
Jackson began his statement to the three-judge panel that will decide whether he receives a life prison term or a death sentence by reading a letter a cousin mailed to him less than a week after he shot Walton once in the head with an AK-47.
The letter admonished him for killing the unarmed Walton and said he needed to explain why he had shot her. The writer, whom Jackson didn’t identify by name, also wrote that he hoped someone would send him a picture of Walton for him to look at and reflect on.
Jackson’s voice broke at times during his statement, but he said he couldn’t cry.
“I want to cry right now, but I don’t know why I can’t,” he said. “But I know that I truly, truly am sorry to the family for what I did.”
Jackson said he has saved the letter for six years and it has become an important part of his life. He also said he can only now look at Walton’s family.
“I was hurt by the pain I caused you all,” he said. “I had no right to do what I did. No right.”
Assistant Lorain County Prosecutor Tony Cillo said that Jackson has not shown remorse in the case. He said the proof of that came just after Walton was killed.
“When he was done, you had the best example of lack of remorse you could ever have, in real time,” Cillo said. “He looked at her and said, ‘B----’ This was a decision that was made by the defendant. This was what he wanted to do, what he chose to do, for his own personal gain.”
Defense attorneys for Jackson have worked to portray Jackson as a victim of a “chaotic” childhood that, coupled with mental issues and low intelligence, led him down a path of crime.
“On the South Side of Chicago in the baddest part of town, if you grow up there, you’re forced to beware of killers, crack dealers, gangbangers, prostitutes and thieves, all of which were in his own house. And when they cast their eye upon young Vincent, that’s when his troubles soon began and our client never recovered from learning the lessons from people with knives and guns in their hands,” attorney J. Anthony Rich said, evoking the lyrics of the Jim Croce song, “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”
During testimony last week, Jackson’s family talked of drug abuse, weapons and domestic violence in their family. His father recounted how his son would skip school and Jackson’s sister described his penchant for brutally torturing cats.
A defense expert, clinical psychologist Dr. John Fabian, testified that those experiences, coupled with his parents’ divorce and his own alcohol and drug abuse, led to several problems. He diagnosed Jackson as suffering from antisocial disorder.
The cumulative effect, defense lawyer Dan Wightman said, should lead to mercy in the case.
“If you’re raised by the devil, you don’t care about other people,” Wightman said.
Assistant County Prosecutor Laura Dezort countered that while Jackson’s family had drug use and brushes with the law, his family still worked to provide him with love. She said his father tried to turn his own troubled life around and pushed for Jackson to avoid the mistakes he had made.
“A lot of people don’t have a fraction of what he had and threw out,” Dezort said.
She also argued that the antisocial disorder diagnosis wasn’t a reason to spare Jackson’s life. She said he was responsible for his crimes despite the problems in his life.
“He’s the one who, every step of the way, chose the wrong path,” Dezort said.
Rich said that Jackson had tried to take responsibility for his actions, trying to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence, an offer prosecutors wouldn’t accept. Jackson ultimately pleaded guilty to the charges against him, including aggravated murder, but prosecutors had to prove the capital specifications that carried a possible death sentence to the panel.
While Rich called Walton’s killing a “travesty, tragic,” he argued that it was a quick death and not “the worst of the worst” that would justify a death sentence.
Rich also urged the judges to spare Jackson so that he could be there for his own son, Vincent Jackson III, and help him avoid the making the same mistakes as his father.
“Promise me, son, not to do the things I’ve done. Walk away from trouble when you can,” Rich said, quoting from the Kenny Rogers song “The Coward of the County.”
The three judges, James Miraldi, John Miraldi and Mark Betleski, deliberated Tuesday afternoon before breaking for the day. They will resume deliberations today.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.