JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After three hours of deliberations, a Duval County jury finds Michael James Jackson guilty on all charges in the abduction and killing of Carol and Reggie Sumner nearly two years ago.
Channel 4's Dan Leveton said Jackson showed no emotion as the jury returned the verdict: guilty on two counts of first-degree murder, guilty on two counts of abduction and guilty on two counts of armed robbery.
The state has announced they intend to seek the death penalty against Jackson. The jury was asked to return May 30 for the penalty phase of the trial.
Prosecutors called Jackson the ringleader in kidnapping the Sumners and burying them alive in south Georgia in July 2005. One co-defendant has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges and is awaiting sentencing. First-degree murder charges are pending against two others.
The prosecution and defense finished their closing arguments on Friday after Jackson took the stand in his own defense -- admitting that he planned and took part in the robbery of a St. Nicholas couple, but denied that he had anything to do with killing them.
"I did not kidnap anybody," Jackson testified. "There's no way I'm going to allow you to pin that on me."
Jackson testified that he went with Bruce Nixon, Alan Wade and Tiffany Cole to the Sumners' house, but he stayed outside in the car, then followed the other three who had taken the Sumners' car.
Jackson claimed he did not know the couple was in the trunk. When they stopped in Charlton County, Ga., Jackson again claimed he stayed in the car and only realized the Sumners had been buried alive when he was asked to bring a flashlight to the three co-defendants.
But on cross-examination, Jackson was asked why he did didn't do anything to try and stop the killings.
"I'm not trying to be the next victim," Jackson said. "You don't look at two people that you're watching bury two people alive -- you don't do that. Next thing you know, I'm the next person in the hole."
The prosecution's case has relied heavily on the testimony of Nixon and recorded telephone calls and a videotape of Jackson's initial questioning by detectives.
Nixon testified last Thursday that Jackson was the mastermind behind the crime.
In his defense, Jackson told the jury it was Nixon who was the mastermind in the Sumners' deaths.
After Jackson's testimony, the defense rested and both sides delivered their closing arguments.
Assistant State Attorney Jay Plotkin told the jury that Jackson was the ringleader of a crime that resulted in two deaths.
"No one was kicking and dragging him in the dead night of crime," Plotkin said.
Jackson's attorney, Richard Kuritz, again blamed Nixon, saying he drove the couple's car and buried them.
Following the guilty verdict, the victims' relatives told Channel 4 they were grateful for the decision.
"My mom and Reggie were just the greatest people you could ever meet, and I just hope that everyone is -- I know they still have a couple trials to go -- I hope they're held accountable for what they did," said the victims' son, Frederick Hallock.
Wade and Cole are also charged with first-degree murder and are awaiting trial.
Nixon has pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, kidnapping and armed robbery. He will not be sentenced until the prosecution of all the defendants is complete.
Jurors will return later this month to recommend whether Jackson should spend his life in prison or be put to death.
- May 4, 2007: Defendant: 'I Didn't Know Couple Would Be Killed'
- May 3, 2007: State Calls Star Witness In Double Murder Trial
- May 2, 2007: Disturbing Audio Played In Double Murder Trial
- May 1, 2007: Prosecutors: 'Ringleader' Made 911 Call Posing As Dead Man
- April 30, 2007: Second Man Goes On Trial In Couple's Slaying
- September 15, 2005: Two Suspects In Missing Couple's Murders Extradited
- August 12, 2005: Missing Couple Murder Suspects To Be Tried In Florida
- July 26, 2005: Police: Missing Couple's Graves Dug Several Days Before Being Buried Alive
- July 20, 2005: Medical Examiner: Missing Couple Buried Alive
- July 19, 2005: Family: Missing Couple's Kindness Led To Their Believed Death
- July 17, 2005: Police Recover Bodies Believed To Be Missing Couple
- July 16, 2005: Police: Missing Couple Believed Dead
- July 15, 2005: Police Speaking With 'Persons Of Interest' In Search For Missing Couple
- July 13, 2005: Police Suspect Foul Play In Missing Handicapped Couple's Disappearance
- July 13, 2005: Missing Couple Feared Victims Of Foul Play
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