Columbus defense attorney Stacey Jackson talks with the Ledger-Enquirer for the Sunday Interview.
Columbus attorney Stacey Jackson had a good year in the courtroom and a bad year at the polls.
In September, Jackson’s client Kareem Lane was acquitted of the 1992 murder of Jim Burns, then the superintendent of Muscogee County schools.
In November, he handily lost a bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Debbie Buckner in the race for the Georgia House seat she holds.
But the way Jackson looks at it, it has been a good year.
He recently sat down with Ledger-Enquirer reporter Chuck Williams to talk about the year, his career, the election and much more.
Here are excerpts of the interview, with some of the questions edited for length and the order of some of the questions rearranged for clarity.
You have had a busy year. You’ve had a lot of high-profile cases. What has been the best part of this year for you?
Wow! So much going on. You know, the Lane trial, the election, so, like you said, it’s been a busy year. I look back over the past 11½ months and it’s just amazing what I have been involved in.
Talk about the Kareem Lane case. You got an acquittal in September in a cold case in which he was accused of killing former school superintendent Jim Burns. Did the acquittal surprise you?
No, no, it didn’t. From the very beginning when I got involved in the case, just with my conversations with Kareem and looking at the evidence, and also looking at how the case proceeded over the number of years that it did, I just really felt that there wasn’t enough evidence to show he had any participation in the crime, even after the DNA report came out.
That case was tried twice.
Hung jury the first time, 10-2 in favor of acquittal, right?
The second time, the jury is out for two days, roughly, and you get an acquittal. How difficult is it to get an acquittal in a murder case?
It depends. Often times when you’re in conversation with jurors, you’re dealing with two types of feelings. One, it is a very, very serious case, obviously, and you’ve got a family who has lost a loved one. So, it’s just a human feeling that they want to hold someone responsible, and that’s one of the feelings you have to contend with as a defense attorney.
Also, on the flip side, as a prosecutor, you have to contend with this: Although we are not supposed to talk about sentencing, anyone that is somewhat familiar with the criminal justice system knows that any murder case carries a heavy and long penalty.
What do you look for in a juror as a defense attorney?
Someone that’s going to be fair. People try to say. “Well, it boils down to race, it boils down to people living in the north side or the south side.” When you talk to jurors, it really doesn’t because you can have someone on the south end of town who is a minority and you can have a minority defendant. Someone may say that the minority juror is going to swing their way.
That’s not always the case. Imagine if you lived in a certain area as a minority where you hear shots fired at all times of the night. You’ve got little kids in your house and you’ve got bullets going through your window. You’ve got drugs being sold right outside your door. And imagine that type of environment, that type of person might actually be pro-prosecution because of the environment they live in.
Also, when you think about Fort Benning being here … where you would imagine some retired military being very, very conservative, very pro-pro-secution. But, also when you think about a retired person from the military, it’s very black and white, they’re used to rules and order.
So, when it comes down for a prosecutor proving all of the elements of the case, they may actually hold the state to a higher standard because they are going to look at every single element that has to be proven. So, that could actually be a pro-defense juror.
The first eight years you were as a prosecutor?
How do you look at a juror as a prosecutor?
It’s sort of the same thing. You want to probably have a juror that really is embedded in the community and they care about the community. You want to try as a prosecutor to have a juror that has grown up here and maybe has children here.
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