RICHMOND, Va. — Lawyers for a Virginia inmate facing execution later this month filed an appeal Friday with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Jerry Terrell Jackson, 30, is scheduled to be executed Aug. 18 for the 2001 murder of 88-year-old Ruth Philips of Williamsburg. His lawyers said in their petition to the Supreme Court that the jury in Jackson’s trial was not given a complete picture of the abuse he suffered as a child. The have argued that evidence of abuse could have convinced jurors to spare Jackson’s life.
In their petition to the high court, Jackson’s lawyers say the jury included two members who refused to consider Jackson’s age and background as mitigating factors unless they were specifically instructed to do so. The defense attorney never requested such an instruction, the appellate lawyers say.
“This Court has repeatedly held that, before a defendant is sentenced to death, a jury must be given the opportunity to consider and confront available mitigation evidence, including evidence of serious childhood abuse, relevant to assessing a defendant’s moral culpability,” Jackson’s lawyers wrote in their petition.
A federal judge last year agreed that Jackson was entitled to a new sentencing hearing, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling on a technicality in April.
In addition to the Supreme Court appeal, Jackson has a clemency petition pending with Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Jackson admitted to police that he broke into Ruth Phillips’ apartment on Aug. 26, 2001, and that he put a pillow over her face to try to make her pass out once she awoke and caught him rummaging through her purse. He told police he left in Phillips’ car and used the $60 to buy marijuana. He said he had not intended to kill Phillips.
At trial, Jackson said he lied to police and that an accomplice smothered Phillips. He denied raping Phillips, but prosecutors presented pubic hairs matching Jackson’s DNA that were found around her body. He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2003.