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VOL. 130 | NO. 98 | Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Noura Jackson Takes Plea Deal in Murder Retrial

By Bill Dries

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After serving nine years in prison, Noura Jackson entered an Alford plea Wednesday, May 20, to a charge of voluntary manslaughter in the death of her mother, Jennifer Jackson.

The decision announced in Shelby County Criminal Court ends the path to a retrial on the second-degree murder charge.


The plea is specifically a decision that the evidence in the case probably would have led to a conviction by a jury. It was agreed to by the prosecution and defense as well as Jackson. Both sides sparred in court over the retrial preparations.

The deal comes with a 15-year prison sentence that includes the nine years Jackson has already served. Jackson is eligible for a parole hearing almost immediately and any decision on an early release would be up to the Tennessee Department  of Parole and the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Jackson has been in prison since she was charged in 2005 and awaiting trial in the brutal murder, which occurred in 2005. She was convicted in 2009.

Special prosecutor Mike Dunavant, who is District Attorney General for the 25th Judicial District in rural west Tennessee, said he made the decision to talk about a plea deal because of the difficulties involved in trying a 10-year old murder case.

He also cited the circumstantial nature of the proof against Jackson in the first trial in which prosecutors sought a conviction on first degree murder charges. Dunavant also cited more restrictive conditions for the retrial.

In August 2014, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed Jackson's murder conviction and ordered a new trial, citing comments then-assistant district attorney general Amy Weirich made in closing statements. Weirich stood by Jackson and said: “Just tell us where you were. That's all we are asking, Noura."

The court ruled the remark was improper and called attention to Jackson’s decision not to testify in her own defense.

The court also ordered the retrial because of evidence that wasn’t disclosed that could have allowed the defense to offer another theory about what happened.

The Shelby County District Attorney General’s office recused itself from the retrial and Dunavant was selected for the retrial.

By the court's ruling, Dunavant said he wouldn't have been able to include testimony about Jackson's alleged drug use, drinking and sexual behavior that was part of the state's case in the first trial.

He also said some witnesses from the first trial could not be located and others were "uncooperative" when contacted about the retrial.

Attorneys Valerie T. Corder and Michael R. Working, representing Jackson, said the deal "assures that she goes free and does not have to risk a second unjust trial in a system in which she has little confidence."

They emphasized that Jackson maintains her innocence.

"Today's plea is not an admission of guilt," they said in a written statement following the day in court before Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft.

Dunavant said the Alford plea is an admission despite the conditions of the plea.

"Ultimately it does not really matter in the grand scheme of finding an adjudication of guilt whether she believes or admits herself to be guilty or not," Dunavant said of Jackson's insistence that she did not kill her mother.

"That's exactly what happened here today was an adjudicaton of guilt and a finding of guilt regarding a knowing and intentional killing of Jennifer Jackson," he added. "That's what Noura Jackson pled guilty to."

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