August 23, 2014

Elyria
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Murder suspect doesn’t enter plea in Gas USA shooting case

Murder suspect Vincent Jackson Jr., right, appears in court Tuesday morning with attorney Dan Wightman for a hearing in Judge James Miraldi's courtroom. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Murder suspect Vincent Jackson Jr., right, appears in court Tuesday morning with attorney Dan Wightman for a hearing in Judge James Miraldi’s courtroom. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — Vincent Jackson Jr. did not enter his expected plea Tuesday to aggravated murder and other charges in the June 2008 shooting death of Gas USA employee Qiana Walton.

Instead, defense attorneys and prosecutors argued over whether Jackson can plead out to all of the charges against him except the capital specification that could result in him receiving the death penalty.

A three-judge panel comprised of Lorain County Common Pleas judges James Miradi, John Miraldi and Mark Betleski ultimately agreed to the request. Jackson now is expected to enter his pleas during a hearing Thursday.

Although most of the arguments over the unusual plea took place behind closed doors, Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo said during a brief hearing that he doesn’t believe Jackson can plead only to part of the indictment.

“There’s no authority to plead to aggravated murder and try the capital specification to a three-judge panel,” Cillo said.

Defense attorney Dan Wightman, however, said he believes the law allows such pleas in part because the judges will have to find Jackson guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the capital specification in order to consider the death penalty.

Under the law, when a defendant pleads guilty in a capital murder case, prosecutors still must present evidence in the case and the panel of judges then must determine whether to accept the plea. In other criminal cases, prosecutors are under no such obligation to produce evidence when a defendant enters a guilty plea.

The benefit to pleading guilty in a capital murder case is that the judges can consider a guilty plea an expression of remorse and factor it into their decision on whether to impose a death sentence, attorneys in the case said.

“You have to consider it,” Cillo said. “You don’t have to give it any weight.”

Prosecutors have rejected requests from Jackson’s attorneys to drop the death penalty specification in exchange for a guilty plea.

Cillo also raised the issue of whether the unusual nature of the plea is a tactic by Jackson or his attorneys that could lead to a potential death sentence being overturned on appeal.

Wightman denied that was what he and fellow defense attorney J. Anthony Rich were trying to do.

“We are not doing this to create an appellate issue,” he said.

The case, which began after Jackson allegedly shot Walton in the head with an AK-47 while he was robbing the Middle Avenue gas station, has moved slowly through the court system for a variety of reasons, including a 2012 stroke Jackson had at the Lorain County Jail.

The case was supposed to go to trial before a jury in February, but at the last minute, Jackson waived a jury and agreed to plead guilty before a panel of three judges.

When county Common Pleas Judge James Burge was selected for the panel, Cillo objected and took the matter to Ohio Supreme Court Justice Maureen O’Connor, who removed Burge last week, citing the judge’s decision earlier this year to get off all of Cillo’s cases.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

  • Larry Crnobrnja

    This POS deserves the death penalty followed by a quick execution of the sentence. But I bet we’ll hear about his appeals 25 years down the road. The planet doesn’t need garbage like this.

    • Zen Grouch

      Yeah…

      …but WHATEVER you do, don’t call him the ‘N’ word or they have to set him free.

      • Larry Crnobrnja

        I don’t use that word.

        • Zen Grouch

          Well yeah…

          …not with a name like Crnobrnja, you aren’t!

          • Joe Smith

            Hey, thats a C word!

          • Zen Grouch

            After looking at again…

            If that’s the dyslexic spelling of ‘corn bread’ he might be allowed to use the ‘N’ word after all.

        • Joe Smith

          You don’t use the word ninny? Ha

          • Zen Grouch

            That’s where Mark Fuhrman made his mistake.

            Instead of trying to look angelic he should have answered the question about whether or not he’s used the ‘N’ word, by looking at his watch and saying, “What… you mean in the last 30 to 45 minutes?”

  • Mark B

    It is POS like this that is causing Global Warming !

  • golfingirl

    “Murder suspect doesn’t enter plea in Gas USA shooting case”

    I will enter it for him….GUILTY!!

  • Andris Tashay

    This woman was one of my childhood friends. This animal definitely needs to get what he deserves

  • golfingirl

    What happened to his shirt and tie?

    He looks much better in orange stripes anyway.

    Probably saving the dress clothes for when they put him in the ground.

  • bpbatista

    In other news, Senator Sherrod Brown voted today to confirm Debo Adegbile to run the Civil Rights Division of the US Dept. of Justice. Adegbile is — in the words of the national FOP — a “race baiting” supporter of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.

    Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and Marxist revolutionary was convicted of murdering Daniel Faulkner, a Philadelphia police
    officer. The question of Abu-Jamal’s guilt is not a close call. Two
    hospital workers testified that Abu-Jamal confessed to them: “I shot the
    motherf***er, and I hope the motherf***er dies.”

    Adegbile’s nomination was opposed by the National Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations, Major County Sheriffs Assocation and the National Sheriffs Association.

    “This nomination can be interpreted in only one way; it is a thumb in
    the eye of our nation’s law enforcement. It demonstrates a total lack of
    regard or empathy for those who strive to keep you and everyone else in
    our nation safe in your home and neighborhoods — sometimes giving
    their lives in the effort,” National FOP President Canterbury wrote to President Obama.

    But Sherrod Brown still voted to confirm a “race baiting” cheerleader for cop-killers.

    Heckuva job Brownie!

  • Kelvin Gray

    I swear that this girl that goes golfing ie: golfingirl seems to make comments that are awfully familiar. Same type of sarcasm and all. Hmm…even seems to sound like a guy making some of those comments. I better leave it along, I may just be reaching. Just a pure coincidence. Might just be the sister to that fella.

    • golfingirl

      Kevin,

      I can assure you I am all woman. And I have no brothers. If my writing style resembles someone else who posts here, they need to change their style to avoid confusion, I am not changing mine.