D.C. Judge Views Police Video Before Jacks Murder Trial

Banita Jacks is at far left as a prosecutor Deborah Sines addresses Judge Frederick H. Weisberg.
Banita Jacks is at far left as a prosecutor Deborah Sines addresses Judge Frederick H. Weisberg. (William J. Hennessy Jr. for the Washington Post)
By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Banita Jacks, in an interview with D.C. police detectives hours after authorities found her living with the decomposed bodies of her four daughters, said she had a dream in which she was Mary Magdalene and her late boyfriend was Jesus Christ.

During the videotaped interview with police, played yesterday in D.C. Superior Court, Jacks spoke softly and, between comments, ate a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese and an apple pie and drank sweet tea, all provided by the detectives. She told them it was the first time she had eaten in three months.

The eight-hour interrogation offered the first glimpse into Jacks's state of mind Jan. 9, 2008, when she was arrested after federal marshals who went to her home to serve eviction papers made the gruesome discovery. The marshals found Jacks dressed only in a large T-shirt and the bodies of her daughters, ages 5, 6, 11 and 16, in two upstairs bedrooms. Prosecutors said the girls had been dead for about seven months.

"This is not a normal situation," Jacks repeatedly told the detectives during the videotaped interview, and she said she feared that they would think she was crazy. But later she said that she wasn't concerned about being called crazy because "this situation has made me fearless of anything. I've seen what I've seen."

The videos were played by Jacks's attorneys for Judge Frederick H. Weisberg during a motions hearing preceding the trial. Jacks's attorneys want their client's answers to police disallowed during the trial. Weisberg will hear the evidence and render a verdict because Jacks waived her right to a jury trial.

The judge will continue watching the videos today and make a ruling before attorneys make their opening statements.

Jacks asked Weisberg whether she could return to a holding cell while the videos were being played. The judge agreed, and marshals escorted her to the holding cell.

In the video, Jacks was dressed in a white prison jumpsuit and white head scarf. Her ankles were shackled as she sat across the table from Detectives Darryl Richmond and Mitchell A. Credile, the lead investigators in the case. On the video, Jacks agreed to waive her rights to have an attorney present before speaking to the detectives after Richmond told her that she was not being charged with murder at the time but that she was a "target" of the investigation because she was the only one found with the girls' bodies.

At times, Jacks rested her head on the table. While eating, she hungrily buried her face in her food. According to court records, Jacks had lost 100 pounds and was suffering from dehydration and malnutrition when she was arrested. Before being questioned, Jacks complained of being dizzy, and she vomited.

She told detectives that she had not eaten since October and that her children had not eaten since September. "They got used to not eating," she said. During early 2007, Jacks said her utilities were turned off: first her water, then the electricity and then the gas. "Nobody would help us," she said.

Jacks, 35, said her daughters died in their sleep one at a time over several days, with the youngest, Aja, dying first. She said that she tried waking them and performing CPR but that they would not wake up.

"I kept calling their names and shaking them, but there was nothing I could do," she said.

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