MT. VERNON –– The Fifth District Appellate Court affirmed a conviction in the first-degree murder of Washington Park Mayor John Thornton.
Justice Melissa A. Chapman delivered the Sept. 11 decision, affirming Aaron Jackson's murder conviction handed down by a jury in April 2012.
Jackson argued there was not enough evidence to find him guilty of the 2010 shooting death of Thornton. He assailed two witnesses with "credibility problems" and claimed the prosecutor exaggerated the evidence against him in closing remarks.
Although the three-judge panel admitted witnesses gave conflicting testimony, the appellate court concluded that the jury had to decide what was considered credible. In addition, the appellate court pointed to other evidence linking Jackson to the murder.
In the opinion, Chapman wrote that Jackson "admitted to police that he was at the scene, and his girlfriend testified that he was out that night driving her red Impala -- the same type of car [a witness] saw the defendant use to leave the scene."
The appellate court was not persuaded by Jackson's concerns with the prosecutor’s closing arguments.
Although the prosecutor made a few mistakes, there was nothing said that could have prejudiced the jury enough to reverse the conviction, the appellate court concluded.
"Prosecutors are afforded considerable latitude in closing arguments," Chapman wrote. "A prosecutor may argue facts in evidence and may draw any reasonable inferences from that evidence."
Justice John B. Barberis and Justice Richard P. Goldenhersh concurred.
Jackson's conviction came in his second trial for the murder of Thornton. The first ended in a mistrial based on the conflicting testimony of witnesses.