Later On

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US Criminal Justice system: She Was Convicted of Killing Her Mother. Prosecutors Withheld the Evidence That Would Have Freed Her.

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Emily Bazelon reports in the NY Times:

By the time Noura Jackson’s conviction was overturned, she had spent nine years in prison. This type of prosecutorial error is almost never punished.

Noura Jackson called 911 at 5 a.m. on Sunday, June 5, 2005. ‘‘Please, I need, I need an ambulance, I need an ambulance right now!’’ she cried. ‘‘Someone broke into my house. My mom — my mom is bleeding.’’ She panted as she waited a few long seconds for the operator to transfer her. ‘‘She’s not breathing,’’ Noura said, sounding desperate, when an emergency dispatcher came on the line. ‘‘She’s not breathing. She’s not breathing. Please help me. There’s blood everywhere!’’

When the police arrived, Jennifer Jackson’s body lay on her bedroom floor in the brick home she owned in a well-kept Memphis neighborhood. Noura’s mother, a 39-year-old successful investment banker, had been stabbed 50 times. The brutal violence on a quiet block made local headlines, generating shock and anxiety in the middle-­class corners of the city.

The police began their investigation with few leads. Jackson lived alone with her only child, Noura, who was 18 at the time. She had divorced Noura’s father when Noura was a baby. Investigators found broken glass on the kitchen floor, from a windowpane in the door that led from the garage to the kitchen. But the window seemed to have been broken from the inside, because the hole it made lined up with a door lock that could be seen only from the kitchen. And no one had seen an intruder. The police questioned Jackson’s on-­again-­off-­again boyfriend. He called her around midnight on the night she was killed but told the police that he hung up before she answered and then went to sleep at his home, more than an hour from Memphis.

The police also questioned Noura. She said she found her mother’s body when she came home after being out all night. She had gone to a couple of parties with friends and then drove around by herself, stopping at a gas station and a Taco Bell.

With concern about the case mounting — ‘‘Mystery Stabbing Death Unsolved,’’ local ABC news reported that August — the case went to Amy Weirich, who at 40 was a rising star in the Memphis prosecutor’s office. A long-­distance runner and the mother of four children, Weirich was a former chief of the gang-­and-­narcotics unit and the first woman to be named deputy district attorney in Shelby County. She was considered a highly skilled trial lawyer.

Studying the case, she developed a theory: Noura was bridling under her mother’s rules and killed her for money that she could use to keep partying with her friends. Jackson’s estate was valued at $1.5 million, including a life insurance policy. Weirich also argued that Noura and her mother were struggling over whether to sell a few cars that Noura inherited from her father, Nazmi Hassanieh, a former Lebanese Army captain. After a long separation, Noura got back in touch with her father when she was 16, and he texted and called her often. Sixteen months before her mother was killed, Hassanieh was shot to death in a Memphis convenience store he owned. His murder was never solved.

The police came to arrest Noura that September as she was finishing up a babysitting job. She had no history of violence, and the case quickly became a local sensation. Weirich asked for a life sentence. The judge, Chris Craft, eventually set a bond of $500,000. Unable to pay, Noura spent a total of three and a half years in jail awaiting trial, on a heavy regimen of anti-­anxiety and antidepressant medication.

Noura’s private lawyer, Valerie Corder, thought Weirich’s case was weak. At the time of Noura’s indictment, the police were waiting for the DNA results from samples taken from the blood spattered around Jackson’s bedroom. When the results came back, they suggested that two or three people, whose identities were unknown to the police, had been in Jackson’s bedroom. Noura’s DNA was excluded as a match for any of the three DNA profiles. But Weirich dismissed the absence of Noura’s DNA. The DNA results ‘‘didn’t point to anything, as DNA often doesn’t,’’ she told me in an interview this past spring. No physical evidence ever linked Noura to the killing.

Noura’s trial aired live on Court TV in February 2009. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2017 at 5:55 pm

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