December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Qiana Walton’s family criticizes sentence at hearing

Jeanunnata Walton, mother of Qiana Walton, listens to her husband, Robert, address the court at Vincent Jackson Jr.’s sentencing hearing Monday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Jeanunnata Walton, mother of Qiana Walton, listens to her husband, Robert, address the court at Vincent Jackson Jr.’s sentencing hearing Monday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — Robert Walton said Monday that Vincent Jackson Jr. should have been executed for killing his daughter, Qiana Walton, during a 2008 robbery of Gas USA.

“This man deserves the death penalty and you two that voted against the death penalty didn’t do your jobs as far as I’m concerned,” Robert Walton told the panel of three judges, who earlier this month split over whether Jackson, 33, should die for his crimes.

Lorain County Common Pleas judges James Miraldi and John Miraldi voted to spare Jackson, while Judge Mark Betleski had wanted to impose the death penalty. Under Ohio law, the judges must be unanimous in order to hand down a death sentence.

Jackson, who didn’t speak in court Monday, was sentenced to life without parole plus another 19 years behind bars. He had pleaded guilty to aggravated murder and numerous other charges in connection with Qiana Walton’s death but refused to enter a plea to the capital specifications that carried the death penalty.

The judges ultimately found Jackson guilty of those specifications.

Assistant County Prosecutor Tony Cillo said Monday that he thought Jackson’s efforts to show remorse by pleading guilty were an effort to save his life, rather than a genuine expression of remorse.

Robert Walton II, father of Qiana Walton, speaks to the court .

Robert Walton II, father of Qiana Walton, speaks to the court .

Jackson shot Walton once in the head with an AK-47 after she turned off the alarm and handed him $12,000 in cash while he held her at gunpoint. He called her a “b—-” before leaving her dead on the gas station floor.

Cillo said Qiana Walton “was slaughtered so the defendant could try not to be caught.”

He said the justice system had failed Walton’s family and that law enforcement was upset with the life sentence and feared that if an officer was killed, a death sentence wouldn’t be imposed.

“It occurred to me that I was thankful Lady Justice was blindfolded, because at this point I believe she’d be sick to her stomach,” Cillo said.

That comment drew a rebuke from Judge James Miraldi.

“That’s going a little bit too far, Mr. Cillo,” Miraldi said. “Now, if you want to respond, you can, but don’t show contempt for this court. This is not an easy process.”

Robert Walton said he felt the judges didn’t look to the hurt Jackson had caused his family when they made their decision.

“We suffered for her, we felt the pain for her, but not one took her into consideration,” he said.

Vincent Jackson Jr. sits with his attorneys, J. Anthony Rich, left, and Dan Wightman.

Vincent Jackson Jr. sits with his attorneys, J. Anthony Rich, left, and Dan Wightman.

Miraldi said state law sets out the standards under which judges can impose the death sentence and that it can’t be simply a desire for vengeance. Those rules, he said, are designed to prevent the courts from serving public opinion rather than justice and the Constitution.

“Our oath as judges forbids us to consider the nature of the crime, the good character of the victim or sympathy for the survivors or their wishes,” he said.

Defense attorneys had portrayed Jackson as damaged by his upbringing in Chicago by family members who engaged in drug dealing, gang activity, prostitution and other crimes. Prosecutors, however, had argued that despite the criminal activity, Jackson’s family did the best they could to provide him with a loving home.

Robert Walton said he had grown up in a Cleveland ghetto and hadn’t turned to a life of crime. He said he had the advantage of good parents and he tried to do the same for his children.

And now, he said, his daughter was gone.

“The only thing I got of my daughter…” he said, pausing as a family member handed him a cell phone with a photo of Qiana Walton, “…is a picture. That’s all we got, pictures and memories. He took her life. I’m a firm believer in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

But Miraldi said the judges didn’t buy into prosecutors’ arguments, which he thought sounded like they were describing a family just short of the Cleavers from “Leave it to Beaver.”

He said Jackson suffered from antisocial disorder, tortured animals, knew how to freebase cocaine in kindergarten and had engaged in criminal activity himself, including shooting a man in the head when he was still a teenager. The victim in that shooting survived.

The judges did agree to a request from Cillo that Jackson be ordered to pay Walton’s family $7,154.75 to cover funeral expenses, money that will be taken out of Jackson’s prison commissary account. They also said they would recommend that the state prison system put Jackson in solitary confinement for a week each year around Walton’s birthday so that he can contemplate his crimes.

Jackson’s attorneys said their client doesn’t intend to appeal his conviction or sentence because he had been willing to plead guilty to life in prison, an offer prosecutors had rejected.

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