ANNAPOLIS -- A former Fort Meade stockade guard convicted last April of murdering a Meade Senior High School sophomore was granted a new trial yesterday because he was not allowed to introduce evidence suggesting he had no motive to commit the crime.
Excluding that evidence amounted to denying Sgt. Jessie Jackson, 27, a fair trial, the Court of Special Appeals ruled.
Prosecutors charged that Sergeant Jackson shot Sun Young Chong, 15, and tossed a Molotov cocktail at her family's home in Pioneer City in November 1989 in an attempt to frighten the girl's mother, Suk Cha Chong, out of pressing robbery and assault charges against him through the Army.
But Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner refused to allow the lawyer who represented Sergeant Jackson in the court-martial on the robbery and assault charges to testify at the murder trial that his client was not worried about the charges.
Lawrence Kerr, the lawyer, would have said that Mrs. Chong misidentified Sergeant Jackson twice before the case went to trial and that he had three witnesses who would have said that the sergeant was elsewhere at the time Mrs. Chong was attacked in a housing area on the Army base.
Mr. Kerr should have been allowed to testify "both as a matter of common law principles and as a matter of fundamental fairness," Maryland's intermediate appellate court ruled.
The prosecution "waved the alleged motive before the jury like a red flag," the court noted. "Any evidence . . . to rebut this inference of motive was clearly relevant."
"What'd I tell you? What'd I tell you?" exulted Michael Sandul, who represented Sergeant Jackson at the murder trial and had predicted that he would be given a new trial on appeal. "That's great."
Sergeant Jackson was acquitted of the robbery and assault charges by a court-martial in February 1990. While the Anne Arundel jury convicted him on the murder charges, it acquitted him of charges of firebombing the house and using a handgun.