Defendant: 'I Didn't Know Couple Would Be Killed'

Jury To Begin Deliberations On Monday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Accused killer Michael James Jackson took the stand in his own defense Friday and did not deny that he planned and took part in the robbery of a St. Nicholas couple two years ago. But he denied that he had anything to do with abducting and killing them.

Jackson, along with two other men and a woman, are accused of kidnapping Carol and Reggie Sumner in July 2005 and burying them alive in south Georgia.

"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 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, who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and other charges, testified Thursday that Jackson was the mastermind 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 coupe's car and buried them.

The jury will return Monday to begin deliberations in the case. If Jackson is convicted of first-degree murder, the state plans to seek the death penalty.

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.

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