A juror and the son of the woman on trial had a romance.
MACCLENNY – A judge refused on Monday to grant a Baker County woman a new murder trial, ruling that her son’s relationship with a juror didn’t affect the outcome.
Circuit Judge James Nilon then sentenced Meloney Lee Jackson, 40, to a mandatory life prison sentence for fatally shooting her 47-year-old husband, Kevin, outside their Glen St. Mary home in March 2008. Her lawyer indicated she will appeal.
Jackson was convicted of first-degree murder in May, but prosecutors notified her public defender after a state investigator saw her oldest son, James Wallace, leave the courtroom hand-in-hand with a female juror after the verdict. No relationship between them was disclosed until then.
Assistant Public Defender George Nelson requested a new trial on grounds of juror misconduct, particularly in light of statements Wallace had made to numerous acquaintances condemning his mother before the trial. He said the juror, Amanda Daniels, should have disclosed the relationship.
“It would only be fair to Ms. Jackson to have a jury that hasn’t heard from her own son telling people she’s an evil bitch,” Nelson said.
But Assistant State Attorney Geoff Fleck of Gainesville argued there was no evidence Wallace made those statements to the juror. And he noted that Jackson never disclosed the relationship during the trial either.
“She probably thought that she had a ringer, a friend of her son who would help her out,” Fleck said.
Testimony on Monday indicated that Wallace and Daniels knew each other in high school in 2003 then rekindled their relationship in 2008, with Daniels spending several nights with Wallace at his grandmother’s home.
Despite that, both testified they never discussed the case, and Daniels told the judge she never connected Jackson to Wallace because of their different last names.
Nilon ruled there was no evidence to the contrary. He made specific findings that Daniels didn’t know the woman on trial was Wallace’s mother and that there was no proof Wallace influenced Daniels’ decision.
Jackson, who had claimed self-defense, declined to speak at the hearing but several relatives did, including her 17-year-old son, Dustin Jackson. He told Nilon he loved and missed both his mother and stepfather, and called Kevin Jackson the only father he ever knew.
As for his mother, the tearful teen described how she changed from a fun-loving mom to a mean and spiteful woman who argued constantly with her husband and seldom left her room.
“I love her for what she was, but I hate her for what she became and what she’s done,” he said.
His mother wept quietly as her son and her husband’s family spoke to Nilon, but she didn’t look up or make eye contact as they passed the defense table.
Nilon said the case compounded tragedy upon tragedy, but the one that touched him most was the plight of Jackson’s two teenage children, left with one parent dead and the other forever incarcerated.“My heart goes out to them immensely as well as other members of the family,” the judge said.