From Rebecca Luke: On March 29th, 2013 Peggy Jo Jackson was granted a commutation of sentence by Governor Pat Quinn. Jo was greeted by her attorney Erica Nichols-Cook, private investigator Rhonda Keech and other members of the Illinois Innocence Project. Two volunteers from the Illinois Innocence Project later drove Jo Jackson to South Carolina where she will reside with her family. Jo plans on starting a dog training school to continue providing service animals to the disabled. When asked what she wanted to do first when she arrived home, she replied "I'm going to sit on the couch and hug my Mom and never let go." Special thanks to the Illinois Clemency Project for Battered Women for their work on the clemency petition, advocate Don Eastep who passed before seeing Jo walk to freedom and of course all the attorneys, staff, students and volunteers at the Illinois Innocence Project for their hard work. We brought her home.
Peggy Jo Jackson was convicted of first-degree murder for her indirect involvement in the death of her husband William Jackson. William was an abusive husband, and after a week of violent beatings and sexual assaults, Peggy's brother Richard entered the Jackson family home to confront William about the abuse. Meanwhile, Peggy fled the home with the couple's three young children to take refuge at a neighbor's house.
Ms. Jackson was convicted for not trying to prevent her brother from murdering her husband. She was sentenced to life in prison. At trial no evidence of the ongoing abuse was presented, and no expert testimony was given on Ms. Jackson's behalf. Instead, prosecutors pointed to the unkempt state of the Jackson home and Ms. Jackson's ability as a mother as reasons why she was guilty of murder.
Since 1986 many great strides have been made to understand domestic violence and the impact it has on victim's lives. The prejudice and bias present in the courtroom during the Jackson trial would not be acceptable in today's legal system. The life sentence levied upon Ms. Jackson is brutally unfair and ignores the appalling abuse she suffered from her husband.
Ms. Jackson has served 25 years in prison and been a model prisoner. She has worked for the Helping Paws program training service dogs for people with disabilities. If she is released, she wants to continue to train service animals for war veterans.
Do not let a woman who has suffered horrific abuse and served as an exemplary volunteer before and after her conviction to languish in prison. Her incarceration does not benefit the people of Illinois, and she should be granted clemency.