The Alabama Supreme Court recently granted EJI’s request for review of Esaw Jackson’s capital murder conviction and death sentence. The case raises serious questions about whether Mr. Jackson was wrongfully convicted because the State presented improper evidence and argument.
Esaw Jackson was charged with two counts of capital murder in the drive-by shooting deaths of two people in a car in Birmingham. Two other passengers in the car were wounded, and one of them said Esaw Jackson was the shooter. That was the only evidence tying Mr. Jackson to the shooting; no weapon was connected to him and no testing showed he had even fired a gun.
At trial, Mr. Jackson presented evidence showing that he was in the car behind the victims’s car when people in a third car opened fire on the victims. Other people in the car with Mr. Jackson were not charged with any crime; and one testified that Mr. Jackson did not shoot anyone.
To shore up a weak case, the prosecutor presented evidence and argument that Mr. Jackson contends were illegal and improperly influenced the jury to convict him and recommend a death sentence.
First, the prosecutor presented testimony from a victim’s mother during the guilt/innocence phase. Even though the mother was not present when the crime occurred, she was allowed to testify that Mr. Jackson killed her child. Her highly emotional testimony, during which she wept, risked improperly prejudicing the jury against Mr. Jackson.
The State also contended that Mr. Jackson was involved with drugs and presented evidence about that at his trial. It is generally improper for a prosecutor to obtain a conviction based on allegations that a defendant committed bad acts other than the crime with which he is charged.
The Alabama Supreme Court will address these issues and decide whether the improper evidence and argument presented by the State violated Mr. Jackson’s right to a fair trial.