Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

Jurors hear testimony in death penalty case for 2007 murder

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — Only hours after a jury began weighing the death penalty for convicted rapist and murderer Kenneth Ray Jackson, one juror told the judge she was overcome emotionally and begged to be excused. Testimony about Jackson's learning disabilities as a child reminded her too much of her youngest son. She couldn't take any more.

Voting for life or death is something no one can prepare for. The remaining 13 — 12 jurors and one alternate — began hearing a history of Jackson's entire life Thursday to help them decide. Today, they'll give their recommendation.

A week ago, they convicted him of the 2007 rape and murder of Cuc Thu Tran, 50, a Seffner mother of three whom Jackson attacked as she jogged past the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church near her mobile home before dawn. He raped and fatally stabbed her there, then drove her body to Gibsonton in a stolen van, where he set the van on fire.

On Tuesday, Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon told jurors that Jackson had planned every part, learned her jogging schedule, stolen the van because it had sliding doors and killed her because she lived near him and could identify him. Under the law, his actions met a required aggravating factor for the death penalty — "cold, calculated, premeditated murder."

Jackson's actions, Harmon said, met another aggravating factor — "heinous, atrocious and cruel."

But Assistant Public Defender Charles Traina said that how Jackson got that way — how he grew up to become a sexual predator and killer — was why he deserved a life sentence rather than death.

The defense presented teachers who taught Jackson almost two decades ago and psychologists to portray him as a friendless child abandoned by his mother, raised by a grandmother who set no boundaries — a wild, unreachable boy who eventually formed a full-blown antisocial personality disorder.

Rosemary Borden, his fifth-grade teacher in Gibsonton, remembered him as "the only student I ever had to Baker Act." She said he was taken to a crisis center after drawing a stick figure lying on a road. He wrote underneath "Kenny is dead. Kenny will die."

This was a boy, she said, who had come from Texas where he had been labeled emotionally disturbed and could read only on a first-grade level. He had an IQ of 75.

Psychologist Yolanda Leon, testifying for the defense, said Jackson told her he'd been "tortured" as a child by being ordered to strike a wood post with a baseball hat until his hands went numb.

She said he told her he had smoked marijuana since age 5.

But prosecutor Harmon suggested Jackson exaggerated stories of abuse. He said Jackson's grandmother loved him, and his mother stayed in his life.

Testimony concludes today. Then the jury will vote on a recommendation to Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente. Their vote needn't be unanimous. By law, Fuente is required to give it "great weight."

John Barry can be reached at (813)226-3383 or [email protected]

Comments
Hometown Pasco for Nov. 24

Hometown Pasco for Nov. 24

We want your news! Hometown Pasco is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether it’s snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well do...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Call Missouri jinxed, but Michael Porter Jr. injury is its own story

Please repeat after me: There is no such thing as jinxes, hexes, ghosts or cartoonish black clouds looming with personalized curses for select targets.Honest.But, boy, are there coincidences — even if some say there is no such thing as those, either....
Updated: 4 hours ago
Cambridge Christian’s Caleb Young makes up for lost season

Cambridge Christian’s Caleb Young makes up for lost season

TAMPA — For Cambridge Christian, last Friday’s Class 2A region final against Indian Rocks Christian represented a hurdle that the Lancers couldn’t quite clear a year ago. For one Lancer in particular, it was the Golden Eagles themselves that brought ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

TAMPA — Third and long, normally an ideal situation for an NFL defense, continues to be a problem as the Bucs try to get opposing offenses off the field.In the second half of Sunday’s game, the Dolphins converted six third downs when they needed 8 ya...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

TAMPA — The Bucs face the defending NFC champions twice in their final six games. As they prepare to go to Atlanta on Sunday, former Tampa Bay first-round pick Adrian Clayborn is enjoying quite a two-week run.Clayborn, 29, had six sacks Nov. 12 in a ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

TAMPA — It’s the biggest football game in USF history.It’s two days and 90 miles away. USF at UCF. The 9-1 Bulls against the 10-0 Knights. It’s USF coach Charlie Strong against UCF/Florida/Nebraska coach Scott Frost. It’s the best these two programs ...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Chip Kelly is not the best candidate for Florida job

For the sake of a beleaguered and bedraggled fan base, here’s hoping Chip Kelly becomes the next head coach of the Florida Gators even though I think he’s not a great fit — culturally, geographically and philosophically — at UF.Gator Nation needs som...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Lane Kiffin knows speculation about his future grows with each victory

BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin already knows what profession he will choose once his coaching career ends.Kiffin, in his first season at Florida Atlantic, thinks he is destined to join the sports-media ranks. It will provide him opportunity to switch roles...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Strong’s slip about UCF’s Griffin seen as motivation for Knights

Strong’s slip about UCF’s Griffin seen as motivation for Knights

TAMPA — While saying nothing to purposely fan the flames of the USF-UCF rivalry during his weekly news conference Tuesday, Bulls coach Charlie Strong provided fuel for the Knights’ best player.He used the H-word when discussing Knights senior outside...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Miami up to No. 2, behind Alabama, in College Football Playoff rankings

Miami up to No. 2, behind Alabama, in College Football Playoff rankings

Miami moved up to No. 2 behind Alabama in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, with Clemson slipping one spot to three and Oklahoma holding at four. Wisconsin and Auburn remained next up behind the top four in a week when the...
Updated: 5 hours ago