Jackson Guilty Of Conspiracy

Jury Finds He Arranged Murder Of 15-year-old

March 20, 1992|By Joel McCord and Dennis O'Brien | Joel McCord and Dennis O'Brien,Staff writers

Jessie Jackson, a former stockade guard at Fort Meade, was convictedyesterday of arranging the murder of a Meade High School sophomore and a fire at her family's home in Pioneer City.

A Circuit Court jury deliberated about five hours after a weeklong trial before it found the former Army sergeant guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and arson and being an accessory before the fact in murder and arson.

He faces a maximum penalty of two life terms plus 60 years in prison when he is sentenced April 3, according to Ronald M. Naditch, theprosecutor.

It was Jackson's second trial for the death of Sun Young Chong, 15. He was sentenced to life plus 30 years in May 1990 after a jury convicted him of murder and arson. But a year later, the Court of Special Appeals ordered a new trial because he wasn't allowed to introduce evidence to suggest he had no motive to commit the crime.

Jackson stood rigidly as the jury foreman announced the verdict,showing no emotion.

But his apparently frustrated lawyer, Robert H. Waldman, predicted later that "all of this case has not been seen yet."

Waldman and Naditch agree that Jackson's brother, James Jackson, tossed a Molotov cocktail at the front door of the Chong home and fired the shots that killed Sun Chong in November 1989 in an effortto frighten the girl's mother, Suk Cha Chong, out of pressing robbery and assault charges against Jessie, then a sergeant in the Army.

Jessie Jackson was acquitted of those charges at a court-martial in February 1990.

Waldman argued that James Jackson committed the murder without Jessie's knowledge.

The verdict, however, showed that the jury accepted the prosecution's theory, Naditch countered. JessieJackson "just sent James out to kill somebody," he said.

James Jackson has not been found. "He's gone to ground somewhere, as far as Ican figure out," Waldman said. "Jessie's inability to speak against his brother has rendered him unable to effectively defend himself."

Naditch blinked back tears as he spoke with reporters after the verdict was announced. The trial was an emotional test for him because he identified with the Chong family, he said.

"There is a 15-year-old girl that was killed in this case, and at the time this happened Ihad a 15-year-old daughter," he explained. "When it happened, this kid was standing in the kitchen of her house. In a place that should be as safe as any place can be. When you have a situation like that, you just care a little bit more about the case."

One juror, who asked not to be identified, said some of the nine men and three women were at first undecided whether Jessie Jackson "had told his brother tokill someone," but that as they reviewed the evidence "the pieces began to fall into place."

Sun Chong was killed 11 days before Suk Chong was to testify at a preliminary hearing on charges that Jessie Jackson had robbed and tried to rape her.

While prosecutors argued that he was trying to intimidate Suk Chong, the defense insisted thathe had no reason to worry.

Maj. Lawrence D. Kerr, who representedJackson at his court-martial, testified during the murder trial thathe had repeatedly told his client that he had a strong case. And a court-martial board deliberated only an hour and a half before deciding Jackson was the victim of a case of mistaken identity.

But Naditch insisted in closing arguments that the defendant was the one who was in trouble, the only one with a motive to harm the Chong family.

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