Jackson defense: Who do you believe?

Published 6:00 am Thursday, February 12, 2004

LIBERTY — The prosecution rested its case, and the defense tookthe reins Wednesday in the trial of a McComb attorney accused ofselling marijuana to an inmate in the Lincoln County Jail lastJune.

The trial of John Jackson, 54, is the second in this case. Thefirst trial in October resulted in a mistrial when the jury wasunable to reach a verdict.

Defense Attorney Charles Miller questioned Wednesday thereliability of informants and attempted to poke holes in theprosecution’s case during his opening remarks.

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Miller told the jury there were no eyewitness accounts of thealleged transaction between Jackson and inmate Cedric Watson.

“The evidence will show that the only two people in that roomwho know what really happened are Mr. Jackson and Mr. Watson,” hesaid.

He asked the jury whose word they would believe: that of arespected defense attorney with years of experience, or the word ofa felon, convicted five times of various crimes with two othercharges pending.

Miller alluded that Watson participated in the undercoveroperation to receive leniency on earlier charges and to avoid beingcharged for possessing marijuana during a shakedown of the jail onMay 8. The marijuana possession charge is ultimately what led tothe investigation of Jackson when Watson informed officers that theattorney was the source of the drug.

Miller also questioned the accuracy of a video of thetransaction shown to jurors Tuesday.

Assistant District Attorney Danny Smith presented the juryTuesday with enhanced photographs taken from the video to try toaddress the poor quality of the recording. The prosecution alsopresented an expert in video enhancement who testified the itembeing passed in the second transaction could not be cigarettes, asthe defense said in the first trial, because it was “round andcurved.”

Miller addressed that new wrinkle Wednesday during his openingremarks.

“(Jackson) smashed the cigarettes. He was sitting on them,”Miller said, indicating the condition of the cigarettes explainedthe “round and curved” shape.

The defense called two witnesses Wednesday who did not testifyat the first trial, Felicia Brown, Watson’s fiancee, and BarbaraWatson, Watson’s sister.

Brown testified that she hired Jackson around “March or April”and made an initial payment of $500. She said that in the monthssince, her total payments have amounted to about $1,500.

“The only thing I discussed with Cedric was that I would takecare of all the legal fees and do what I could do,” she said.

During the first trial, the defense painted Brown as one ofseveral alternative ways Watson could have received drugs while inthe jail.

Watson, who testified for the prosecution earlier in the dayWednesday, described the visitation room and said it would beimpossible for anyone to give him drugs there. There was no way tomake physical contact or to pass objects through the plexiglasswindow.

When cross-examined by Smith, Brown said she was unaware thatWatson had also been paying Jackson for his services and could notsay how much the attorney had been paid altogether.

Watson did not tell her he was involved with officers in aninvestigation, she said, but “I knew something was wrong” prior toJackson’s arrest.

“He (Watson) said he was in a dilemma, and he was involved insomething that he didn’t know how to get through.” The inmate didnot elaborate, she said.

Brown also testified that Jackson was more interested in themoney than in Watson’s best interests. The attorney promised to dothings that never got done, she said.

“I really don’t think a lot of things that could have been donewere done,” she said. “It was always that he was gonna do this orgonna do that… I was never given an office (telephone) number. Iwas given a cell phone number and his father’s number.”

In addition, she said, when Jackson asked for money and shedidn’t have any, he would become rude and uncooperative.

Brown said Jackson called her after his arrest and said hecouldn’t believe Watson had set him up. Jackson never denied givinghim the marijuana, she said, adding that she did not ask if hehad.

She then said Jackson’s investigators came to see her whilepreparing for the first trial. She was told it was in Watson’s bestinterests to help them, Brown testified.

Under Miller’s redirect, however, she softened thatstatement.”(The investigator) just asked me a lot of questions,”she said. “He never told me anything.”

Barbara Watson simply testified that she and her brother “do notcommunicate enough for me to visit him.”