Charlottesville Jury Find Gerald Jackson Guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A Charlottesville jury has found 61-year-old Gerald Francis Jackson guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Jurors are recommending he serve a sentence of 10 years.
The jury of seven men and five women began their deliberations in Charlottesville Circuit Court around 10 a.m. Wednesday, August 7. They deliberated for about four hours before finding Jackson guilty of the lesser charge.
Authorities had originally charged Jackson with second-degree murder in the death of 55-year-old Richard Edwards.
The jury only heard testimony from witnesses called by Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joseph Platania during the three-day trial. Defense attorney Chris Graham did not call any witnesses to the stand, but had pointed to a lack of motive for his client to kill Edwards.
"You don't know what goes on during deliberations, but as a prosecutor you always want to be able to present a motive to a jury, and we were just unable to do that in this case which made it tough to prosecute," Platania said.
The victim's body was found in the kitchen of his Cherry Street apartment in the pre-dawn hours of January 10, 2019. According to a state medical examiner, Edwards was stabbed three times with a Phillips screwdriver: once behind his left ear, once in his left cheek, and the fatal blow to the jugular. He also had blunt-force trauma to the head, likely from a fall as he bled out.
Investigators on the witness stand said Jackson had told them, "Arrest me and I'll kill you, too." Additionally, Jackson's alibi to police didn't add up: The defendant claimed he had gone to Lucky 7 to buy beer, drank it with another person, and later found Edwards dead. However, Jackson didn't appear on the store's surveillance video, and selling beer "off-premise" between midnight and 6 a.m. is prohibited under state law.
Graham admitted Jackson’s stories did not add up, but claimed his client and the victim were friends. Jackson’s attorney also asked the jury, “You think he’s trying to get away with murder?” Adding, “He’s not a sophisticated guy.” The court heard from the victim's half-sister, Tara Williams, after the jury returned with its verdict. She testified that Edwards wasn’t perfect, but he loved and was loved. Williams also told the jury to take Jackson’s multiple, violent past criminal convictions into consideration. Those crimes include domestic assault, felony assault, shoplifting, and multiple drunk-in-public convictions.
The defense, again, did not call any witnesses.
Jackson is scheduled to be sentenced on October 28.