Jerry Terrell Jackson executed in Virginia for murder of 88-year-old woman

August 18, 2011

Jerry Terrell Jackson, who murdered, raped and robbed an 88-year-old woman in her Williamsburg apartment 10 years ago, was executed Thursday night, becoming the first Virginia inmate put to death using a new three-drug mixture.

Jackson, 30, of Williamsburg, was pronounced dead at 9:14 p.m., according to a Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman. Asked whether he wanted to make a last statement, he shook his head.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) denied Jackson’s request for clemency last week, and the U.S. Supreme Court, Jackson’s last hope for intervention, declined Thursday to send his case back to the trial court.

Jackson’s grandfather, mother, brother, sister, nieces and nephews visited him Wednesday and Thursday at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, said his attorney Michele Brace. Jackson also met with an Episcopal priest who had been his spiritual adviser for the past several years, Brace said.

In August 2001, Jackson crawled through Ruth Phillips’s bathroom window. He was rummaging through a purse in her bedroom when she awoke and confronted him.

Jackson later told police that he held a pillow over Phillips’s face and sexually assaulted her. He said he used $60 that he took from her purse to buy marijuana.

On Sunday morning, Aug. 26, 2001, Phillips did not show up for church services, and calls to her apartment went unanswered. That evening, Richard Phillips found his mother in her bed, her body “twisted and exposed,” according to court papers.

Jackson is the 109th person to be executed in Virginia since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. Before Thursday, the state’s most recent execution was in 2010 when Teresa Lewis, 41, died by lethal injection for her role in the killing of her husband and stepson.

Ten men remain on Virginia’s death row.

Jackson’s supporters and attorneys did not argue that he was innocent. They stressed in petitions and court documents that jurors might have opted for a sentence of life in prison if they had heard more details, including testimony from his brother and sister, about the physical and emotional abuse he suffered in his childhood — what his attorneys described as a life of “depraved, daily and sadistic abuse.”

The execution is the first time Virginia has used pentobarbital, a powerful sedative, as part of its lethal mix of drugs.

Virginia and many other states had previously used sodium thiopental as the first dose in a three-drug cocktail until the drug’s only American manufacturer stopped producing it this year.

Lundbeck, the Danish company that produces pentobarbital, announced this summer that it would block shipments to U.S. prisons that intended to use the drug for executions. Company officials labeled it a “distressing misuse” of the drug, which is used to treat conditions including a form of epilepsy.

Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman Larry Traylor said the agency received five shipments of pentobarbital before the restrictions were imposed in late June. The agency is developing “contingency plans” for future executions in light of the restrictions, he said, but would not elaborate.

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