As Jessie Jackson's second murder trial began yesterday, both the prosecution and the defense agreed on one thing: The defendant's brother may have had something to do with the killing.
But the brother, James Jackson, has never been charged with anything, and no one seemsto know where he is.
Jessie Jackson, 27, a former stockade guard at Fort Meade, is once again standing trial in county Circuit Court in the November 1989 shooting death of the teen-age daughter of a woman who had accused Jackson of assault.
Jackson was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison after a jury convicted him of murder and arson in May 1990. A year later he was granted a new trial because he had not been allowed to introduce evidence suggesting he had no motive to commit the crime.That amounted to denying Jackson a fair trial, the state Court of Special Appeals ruled.
Prosecutors say Jackson was trying to frighten Suk Cha Chong to dissuade her from pressing robbery and assault charges against him. He is accused of murdering the woman's 15-year-old daughter, Sun Young Chong, who was shot dead after a Molotov cocktailexploded at her family home in the Pioneer City area of Severn.
But defense attorney Robert H. Waldman told a jury yesterday that Jackson's attorney would testify the former Army sergeant was not concerned about the court martial brought by Chong's allegations because thedefense case was "rock solid." Judge Eugene M. Lerner's barring of the lawyer's testimony was the basis for the conviction being overturned. Lerner is the presiding judge in Jackson's second trial, which isexpected to continue into next week.
Ronald M. Naditch, an assistant state's attorney, told jurors Jessie Jackson was responsible for the girl's death -- emphasizing the word "responsible." He said Jackson had the motive and he pointed to circumstantial evidence and physical evidence that could link him to the crime.
For instance, Jackson bought a 9mm handgun that tests showed was used to fire the shot that killed Chong, and police found 9mm bullets in the apartment he shared with a girlfriend, Naditch said. Also, the prosecutor said, he lied about ever owning such a gun when questioned by police.
Also, fire investigators determined the Molotov cocktail had been containedin a 46-ounce orange-raspberry juice bottle and police found receipts for the same kind of juice in the apartment, Naditch said. The prosecutor said the brother, James Jackson, was in Fort Meade the night of the shooting "to assist his brother."
James Jackson, 14 months younger than Jessie, was last seen last November in Atlanta, Naditch said. Waldman, an assistant public defender representing Jessie Jackson, told the jury, "The state's case is a 'looks-like-it case.' There is a realm, a dimension underneath that explains every single fact Mr. Naditch brought up."
He accused police detectives of twisting his clients words and the "innocuous" circumstances to support their suspicions that Jessie Jackson was the killer. Waldman said his client had no role in the killing, adding, "He's guilty of hiding his brother afterward because he figured out what happened quickly."
In the first trial, Jackson was acquitted of charges of fire-bombing the house and using a handgun. Jurors interviewed after that trial said theywere convinced Jessie Jackson was an accessory before the fact to murder, but they were unsure whether he was actually present at the shooting scene. One juror suggested James Jackson may have been the culprit.