December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Defense attorney for Gas USA shooter sends reminder to judges

Vincent Jackson sits with attorney J. Anthony Rich as evidence is presented in his trial. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Vincent Jackson sits with attorney J. Anthony Rich as evidence is presented in his trial. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — Lawyers for Vincent Jackson Jr. have asked the three-judge panel that will consider a possible death sentence for the admitted killer beginning next week to take notice “that Ohio’s Life Without Parole sentence in fact means life without parole.”

Life without parole is one of the possible alternate sentences that the panel could impose on the 33-year-old Jackson if the judges decide against the death penalty. Jackson has pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and other charges for the June 2008 shooting death of store clerk Qiana Walton during a robbery of Gas USA in Elyria.

Defense attorney J. Anthony Rich said he simply wants the judges to acknowledge that there is no reduction in sentence for good time and that if Jackson was given a life sentence without parole, Jackson would never be released.

Rich said defense attorneys are typically more concerned with the issue when their client’s fate is in the hands of a jury.

“The No. 1 reason jurors impose the death penalty is because they’re afraid the guy will get out,” he said.

But prosecutors disagree with Rich’s assessment.

County Prosecutor Dennis Will said Rich’s argument doesn’t take into account executive clemency that could lead to Jackson being released early. He also said it’s possible Jackson, who suffered a stroke in the Lorain County Jail in 2012 while awaiting trial, could be released for medical reasons.

“Usually judicial notice has to be uncontroverted, but what he said isn’t accurate,” Will said.

Rich called such arguments “foolish” and said he finds it highly unlikely that Jackson will ever receive a pardon or a reduced sentence given the facts of the case.

Walton had cooperated with Jackson during the robbery, disabling the gas station’s alarm system and turning over about $12,000 in cash to him before he shot her once in the head with an AK-47 assault rifle.

Jackson, who had been released less than a month before from an Illinois prison for shooting a man in the head during an argument, was arrested hours after the Gas USA robbery following a brief standoff with police at his sister’s nearby home. The victim in the Illinois shooting survived his injuries.

During next week’s sentencing hearing, defense attorneys will try to convince the judges that Jackson should be spared a death sentence while prosecutors will argue that whatever problems Jackson has had in life do not mitigate his crimes, and he should be executed.

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