Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Court Upholds Jurisdiction Over Interstate Murder Conspiracy
By a MetNews Staff Writer
California had jurisdiction over the case of a man convicted of conspiracy in connection with the murders of three people, two of them in North Carolina, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Div. One affirmed the conviction of Ricardo Jackson, charged in 2009 in connection with the murders of Janice Carol King in Los Angeles and Lori Champion and Terry Jackson in Durham, N.C. All three killings occurred on Nov. 9, 1997.
Justice Jeffrey Johnson, in an unpublished opinion for Div. One, said California had jurisdiction—despite a mixed verdict as to the overt acts alleged to have occurred—because the killing of King occurred here and was an object of the conspiracy.
Prosecutors alleged that King and Champion were both killed because they had either lost or stolen money belonging to Jackson and his brother Pablo, who they said were running marijuana between Los Angeles and North Carolina. Witnesses testified that King had been paid $1,000 per trip for bringing drugs back from California, and that Champion was a friend of hers.
King and Champion also knew cocaine dealer Michael Jackson—brother of the murdered Terry Jackson and no relation to Ricardo and Pablo Jackson. The bodies of the North Carolina victims—who like King were shot to death—were found at the home that Terry and Michael Jackson shared. There was evidence that Champion had been tortured.
Not long after the deaths, police spoke to Michael Jackson, who admitted having taken a bag of money from King and Champion, who frequently had large sums of cash with them. He said the two women had about $150,000 to $200,000 in a motel room where the three of them were using drugs four or five days before the murders, and that he took a suitcase full of cash from them and jumped into a taxi.
He admitted giving some of that money, about $7,700, to his brother, and admitted having previously seen the women with “Pablo.” A police investigator testified that Michael Jackson also told them that the women had come to his home several times with Ricardo Jackson, although Michael Jackson denied this at the trial.
Another witness, April Newman, testified that she had been in a relationship with the defendant, and that they were together at a Ramada Limited Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport on the day of the murders. King was also in the room.
Jackson and his brother had a phone conversation, Newman testified, both speaking Jamaican patois that King could not understand. Newman said she heard both ends of the conversation, in which the defendant said King admitted having “smoked up” their money, Pablo Jackson said he was going to kill the people in North Carolina who were responsible, and the defendant said he was going to kill King.
She said she saw the defendant cleaning a gun and said he was angry and cursing.
After the call, she said, the defendant told King it was “time to go.” He told Newman to come along, but Newman said she was scared and told him she had to go home to her daughter, and watched as he drove off with King.
King was found shot to death in an alley on W. 60th Place. Newman testified that she had a subsequent phone conversation with Jackson, in which he admitted killing King, and that after her apartment was broken into and she received death threats, she got scared and left the state.
She admitted on cross-examination that her car was seized by police days after the killings, because it was believed connected to a shooting that later occurred at the same Ramada. She denied having any connection to the shooting, any knowledge of how her car came to be there, or any recollection of where she was on the date the shooting occurred.
Police linked Ricardo Jackson to that shooting through the testimony of a hotel employee and security video.
When an information was filed 12 years later, it charged seven overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy, three of which occurred in California—the phone conversation between the Jackson brothers, the defendant driving King to the alley where she was killed, and King’s murder. The overt acts alleged to have occurred in North Carolina included the abduction of Champion, her being taken to a house, a demand that residents of the house disclose Michael Jackson’s whereabouts, and the killings of Champion and Terry Jackson, all by unidentified co-conspirators.
The jury found Ricardo Jackson guilty of conspiracy, but not guilty of King’s murder. It specifically found that five of the alleged overt acts had occurred—the four acts in North Carolina and the phone call between the defendant and his brother—but found not true the allegations that Ricardo Jackson had driven King to the alley and that he had murdered her.
Ito sentenced Jackson to 25 years to life in prison, as required by law. He called the defendant “a manipulative, conniving, thoroughly amoral individual” who “should never be released on parole.”
On appeal, the defense argued that because the only overt act found to have occurred in California was the agreement to commit the target crimes, the state lacked jurisdiction under Penal Code Sec. 184.
The statute says that “[n]o agreement amounts to a conspiracy, unless some act, beside such agreement, be done within this state to effect the object thereof, by one or more of the parties to such agreement.”
Johnson, however, explained that while Sec. 182 requires that at least one overt act be separately pled and proven in order for there to be a conspiracy conviction, and Sec. 184 requires that an act beyond the criminal agreement occur in California, there is no requirement that the act required by Sec. 184 be separately pled and proven.
The defense, he noted, had argued at trial that King might have been driven to the alley and murdered by someone other than King, perhaps Newman. The jury’s verdict, finding that the defendant was part of a conspiracy to commit murder, but did not himself murder King, was consistent with this theory, Johnson said.
But that did not necessarily mean that no act in furtherance of the conspiracy occurred in California after the plot was put in motion, the jurist said, noting that because of the wording of the information, jurors were not asked to specifically determine whether King may have been driven to the alley and/or killed by a co-conspirator of the defendant.
While the jury had at least a reasonable doubt as to who drove King to the alley and killed her, Johnson said, there was no such doubt that the defendant entered into an agreement that culminated in her murder.
“King’s murder was an act occurring in California on the same day, also in California, that Jackson planned King’s murder with his brother on the telephone. In our view, the evidence was conclusive that King’s murder was committed by a member of the conspiracy. It was thus beyond question that some act in furtherance of the conspiracy, other than the telephone agreement to commit murder, occurred in California as required by section 184….”
Attorneys on appeal were Tara Hoveland, by appointment, for the defendant and Deputy Attorneys General Steven E. Mercer and Peggy Z. Huang for the prosecution.
The case is People v. Jackson, B237108.
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