Jurors tour Ken Karyl murder scene

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A verdict might be reached today in the trial of Eric Jackson, accused of firing 21 rounds from an AK-47 into a Ken Karyl neighborhood and causing the deaths of three people, one of them an unborn baby boy.

In a rare event, during court session Tuesday jurors and court officials visited the place where the shootings occurred and were told the defendant fired the rifle in the general direction of his victims after a dispute over a video game.

Killed on June 26 were Denise Jackson, 25, her unborn child and Preston Qualls, 25. Because no specific intent to kill the victims was evident, Eric Jackson, 26, not related to Denise, was indicted under the “depraved heart” statute. It allows murder convictions when an extreme indifference to life is shown. The sentence would be life without parole.

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Circuit Court Judge Isadore Patrick approved the site visit late Tuesday morning and jurors, who were selected Monday, were taken to the front yard at 2634 Ken Karyl Ave., where Denise Jackson lived with her grandfather and her three children. Police Lt. Linda Hearn pointed out the hole in the northeast corner of the house where a bullet entered, went through a couch and killed the pregnant woman who was apparently trying to take shelter from the rifle fire.

Hearn also pointed out where three bullet casings from a 9-mm handgun were recovered across the street from Denise Jackson’s residence. Hearn later testified, back in the courtroom, that two people apparently had been shooting at each other, but police had not found the other shooter.

Jurors were then taken behind a home two doors down at 2630 Ken Karyl, where the body of Qualls was found the day after the shooting, and up the street to where police found 21 spent bullet casings from the rifle police believe Eric Jackson used.

Finally, the jury was shown the Grant Street home of Eric Jackson’s family, about 150 feet from where the bullet casings were found near the intersection of Ken Karyl Avenue and Royal Street.

Prosecutor Dewey Arthur said Eric Jackson became insulted when he was restrained from assaulting a 15-year-old boy over the game, and went back to his family’s home, got the rifle and fired the shots toward Denise Jackson’s home from the top of Ken Karyl Avenue.

Defense attorney Branan Southerland told the court, “It is not possible to stand at the top of the hill and shoot down there.” He also said those who claimed to have witnessed the shooting have changed their stories. “It is a case of misidentification,” he said.

In other testimony Tuesday, Dr. Steven Hayne, former state pathologist who conducted the autopsies, said both Qualls and Denise Jackson died of single gunshot wounds that produced internal bleeding. Denise Jackson’s unborn baby, “a male fetus, well-formed with no abnormalities,” Hayne testified, died of oxygen deprivation due to the death of his mother.

Family members of Qualls and Denise Jackson wept during Hayne’s testimony as he gave details about the deaths and District Attorney Ricky Smith displayed photographs taken during the autopsies.

Defense counsel Jerry Campbell probed prosecution witnesses about the discovery of Qualls’ body about 19 hours after the gunfire, repeatedly questioning Hearn, Hayne and police Lt. Bobby Stewart about how police could have overlooked the body and questioning the state in which it was found, suggesting Qualls might not have died in the gunfire that evening.

He also questioned witnesses about the trajectory of the bullet that killed Qualls, which traveled only very slightly downward though the bullet casings were found at the top of a somewhat steeper incline on Ken Karyl Avenue and Qualls was closer to the bottom of the hill.

Also testifying were Denise Jackson’s grandfather, Lucius Jackson, 85, who witnessed her death, and gunshot residue analyst and expert Jacob Burchfield. Burchfield confirmed defense claims that Eric Jackson tested negative for gunshot residue, but said the test is most effective within four hours of firing a weapon and before washing one’s hands. Eric Jackson surrendered to police about 12 hours after the shootings and had bathed.

Prosecutors planned to call three more witnesses this morning before resting their case, Arthur told Patrick.

Campbell and Southerland would not comment on their defense or say whether Eric Jackson intended to testify in his own defense.

Eric Jackson has been jailed since his arrest. Addresses listed for him have been1905 Baldwin Ferry Road and 2609 Grant St.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at phitchins@vicksburgpost.com.