RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Bob McDonnell said Friday he will not stop next week’s execution of a man who was convicted of raping and killing an elderly Williamsburg woman.
McDonnell’s action leaves the U.S. Supreme Court as the only hope for Jerry Terrell Jackson, 30, who is to die by injection Thursday at Greensville Correctional Center.
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“After conferring with the appropriate parties, as well as thoroughly reviewing the clemency petition and the judicial opinions in this case, I find no compelling reason to set aside the sentence of the jury, imposed and affirmed by the courts,” McDonnell said.
Jackson was convicted of the 2001 murder of 88-year-old Ruth Phillips.
His lawyers argue the jury was not given a complete picture of the abuse he suffered as a child, and that evidence of abuse could have convinced jurors to spare Jackson’s life.
“We respect the governor’s decision, but we are profoundly disappointed that he chose not to intervene in this instance,” said Josh Toll, a Washington attorney who is helping represent Jackson.
Jackson would be the first Virginia inmate to die using a new drug protocol that replaces the sedative sodium thiopental with pentobarbital in the three-drug cocktail. A nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental forced many states to substitute pentobarbital, but some have questioned its use. Courts have ruled that the change in drugs is not significant enough to postpone executions.
Jackson’s attorneys have argued that his trial attorneys failed to present evidence of his extreme abuse as a child. A federal judge agreed and ordered a new sentencing hearing for Jackson last year, but the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked that hearing on a technicality in April.
Jackson admitted to police that he broke into Ruth Phillips’ apartment 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.
Phillips, a widow for 30 years, worked as a seamstress making slip covers and draperies.