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The Peggy Jo Jackson Case

Photo of Jo on the evening of her release. Peggy Jo Jackson was convicted of first-degree murder for her indirect involvement in the 1986 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.

Ms. Jackson served 25 years in prison and was a model prisoner. She worked for the Helping Paws program training service dogs for people with disabilities. On March 29th, 2013 Peggy Jo Jackson was granted a commutation of sentence by Governor Pat Quinn. Jo immediately relocated to South Carolina where she resides with her family and plans to start a dog training school to continue providing service animals to the disabled. Ms. Jackson’s release was pursuant to a clemency petition filed by counsel for the Illinois Clemency Project for Battered Women. That counsel provided legal representation to Ms. Jackson at the clemency hearing.

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. Special thanks to advocate Don Eastep who passed before seeing Jo walk to freedom and all the attorneys, staff, students and volunteers at the Illinois Innocence Project for their hard work.

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