Friday, September 12, 2003

Spokane

Brad Jackson denied new trial
Supreme Court also said police can't install GPS devices without warrants
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Kevin Blocker
Staff writer

The Washington state Supreme Court on Thursday denied Brad Jackson's appeal for a new trial.

In doing so, the state's high court all but ended any chance that Jackson can avoid his 56-year sentence for the murder of his daughter, Valiree Jackson.

Jackson, now 36, has one more opportunity to ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider its unanimous decision.

Jackson's attorneys argued that he should get a new trial because his constitutional right against unreasonable search an
d seizure was violated when a judge allowed authorities to plant global positioning devices on two of Jackson's vehicles.

"I'm hugely relieved," said Spokane deputy prosecutor Kevin Korsmo, who argued the case on behalf of the state. "If we lose that GPS evidence, then all we have as evidence is a missing girl and a dad with two inconsistent stories."

In its ruling, the state Supreme Court also said law enforcement agencies cannot install GPS devices without a warrant.

The American Civil Liberties Union asked that the court use Jackson's case to decide that issue. Seattle attorney Douglas Klunder, who wrote a brief on behalf of the ACLU, said it was neither for or against Jackson.

"We're very pleased that the court ruled that warrants are necessary to apply the GPS," Klunder said.

Justice Barbara Madsen wrote in the decision: "Use of GPS tracking devices is a particularly intrusive method of surveillance, making it possible to acquire an enormous amount of personal information about the citizen under circumstances where the individual is unaware that every single vehicle trip taken and the duration of every single stop may be recorded by the government."

John Stone, Valiree Jackson's uncle, praised the state Supreme Court decision.

"This doesn't make my day, this makes my month," Stone said from his home in Glendale, Ariz. "It sends a message out there to anyone trying to beat the system that murdering children is not acceptable."

Jackson reported Valiree's disappearance about 8:45 a.m. on Oct. 18, 1999. He said he was doing laundry inside his parent's home at 13319 E. Blossey, where he and his daughter lived, when she vanished from the front yard.

No one but Jackson saw Valiree the morning she was reported missing, prosecutors argued at his trial. Given that fact, visiting Judge Rebecca Baker said it was logical to search his home and vehicles and track his movements.

A jury agreed with prosecutors who argued Jackson smothered his daughter with a pillow. He buried her south of the Spokane Valley, then exhumed her remains and placed them in a shallow grave in Stevens County.

Investigators found Valiree's body using a tracking device when Jackson returned to the site of the second grave, possibly intending to move the body again, investigators said at his trial.

Defense attorneys at the trial argued that Jackson became irrational when he found his daughter dead, which led him to cover up the girl's death in fear he'd be blamed for it.

"I went back and saw blood on her pillow," Jackson testified on the witness stand. "I tried to wake her up; I turned the bedroom light on, but she didn't move. She didn't stir. I shook her. ... There was nothing."

Former public defense attorney Jim Kane said Valiree died of an overdose of Paxil, an anti-depressant prescription drug.

Jackson's former girlfriend, Dannette Schroeder, testified that Jackson proposed to her just three days after he reported Valiree missing. Prosecutors argued that Jackson killed Valiree to clear the way for a long-term relationship with Schroeder.

Valiree's death prompted Stone and other supporters to lobby the Legislature to allow the death penalty against someone guilty of premeditated murder of a child 12 years old or younger. Under their proposal, murdering someone 15 or younger could get life in prison without parole.

The Valiree Jackson Act failed in the Legislature more than two years ago, but Stone said he will return to Spokane and Seattle in the coming weeks to push the idea again.

Washington law lists many scenarios under which a murderer can be condemned to die, but killing a child isn't among them.

ĽKevin Blocker can be reached at (509) 459-5513 or by e-mail at kevinb@spokesman.com.


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