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Appeals court upholds conviction in 1984 murder of Jacksonville child

At his first appearance on charges of sexual battery and murder, James Jackson was ordered held without bond.
At his first appearance on charges of sexual battery and murder, James Jackson was ordered held without bond.

An appeals court Wednesday upheld the first-degree murder conviction in the 1984 murder of 10-year-old Tammy Welch in Jacksonville.

James Leon Jackson was arrested in 2013, decades after Welch was sexually assaulted and killed, after DNA evidence linked him to the murder.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by Jackson, now 67, who was convicted in 2018 and received two life sentences.

Judges James Wolf, Clay Roberts and Brad Thomas upheld the conviction Wednesday, with Thomas writing a concurring opinion that delved into details of the case. Thomas did not list the victim’s name, which has been previously reported in coverage of the murder and trial in Jacksonville.

Thomas wrote that the victim and her sister stayed home from school on Aug. 27, 1984, to help their mother move out of an apartment while their father was deployed in the U.S. Navy. The victim was left alone in a courtyard and later was found dead by her sister under stairs at the apartment complex.

In 2013, investigators were notified that DNA obtained from the victim’s sexual-assault kit matched DNA that had been obtained from Jackson.

In the appeal, Jackson alleged that a prosecutor made improper comments during the trial. But in his concurring opinion, Thomas wrote that the comments “did not reach the level of fundamental error” and that the conviction could have been reached even without the disputed comments.

“When considering the entire record, appellant (Jackson) received a fair trial and there was enough evidence presented for the jury to find him guilty of first-degree murder and sexual battery,” Thomas wrote.