Jurors on Thursday will begin deliberations in the first-degree murder trial of Corey Jackson, accused in the shooting death of 29-year-old Paul Johnson over what prosecutors say was likely an ongoing dispute over a woman.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys for Jackson, 26, delivered their final words to jurors late Wednesday before Circuit Judge Dina Keever sent the panel home with plans to read them jury instructions and allow them to begin deliberations in the morning.
Much of prosecutors’ case rested on testimony from a pair of witnesses who said they saw Jackson call Johnson over to him on Nov. 20, 2014 after Johnson got out of his car in the 1100 block of West 31st Street. Assistant State Attorneys Aleathea McRoberts and Lauren Godden reminded jurors Wednesday that both witnesses said Jackson and Johnson discussed a woman in the ensuing exchange.
One witness said that Jackson accused Johnson of pointing a gun at him at least a day earlier. Both said Jackson eventually started firing, hitting Johnson five times.
“Don’t disrespect me and think you’re going to get away with it,” McRoberts described as Jackson’s alleged mindset, adding: “He wouldn’t let it go…The defendant had decided that it was past the point of no return this time.”
But if the dispute was really about a woman, Assistant Public Defender Scott Pribble asked jurors, who was she, where was she, and why did jurors never hear from her during the three-day trial?
Pribble also pointed out the fact that police never recovered a murder weapon and failed to to complete what he said would have been basic parts of a murder investigation, most notably never obtaining a search warrant for Jackson’s phone.
As for the witnesses, Pribble said the state’s best witness, a convicted felon, testified in order to avoid his own felony gun charge. Pribble used his last words to jurors to urge them to acquit Jackson.
“Because in this country we don’t punish people for crimes they didn’t commit, for crimes that the state can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt,” Pribble said.
The defense’s sole witness was Jackson’s mother, who sobbed as she left the witness stand after describing how police came to her house searching for her son before they eventually captured him.
Seated in the court gallery was Johnson’s mother, Cassandra, other relatives and Angela Williams, one of the founders of the Palm Beach County-based Mothers Against Murderers Association. Williams, who has had to bury her nephew and several other relatives due to gun violence, expressed sympathy for the mothers of both men.
“Whatever the outcome is here, nobody’s going to win,” she said of the mothers. “It’s a loss for everyone.”