State trooper found guilty in mock trial

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

The Selma Times-Journal

By a show of hands, the people of Selma found an Alabama State Trooper guilty of the murder of Jimmy Lee Jackson during a mock trial Friday evening at the Dallas County Courthouse – 41 years after Jackson’s death.

The mock trial, sponsored by the Alabama Black Belt Bar Association, was part of this weekend’s 41st annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee celebration.

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Jackson’s death on Feb. 26, 1965, triggered the chain of events ultimately leading to the Selma to Montgomery march.

On Feb. 18 1965, a group of nearly 500 people marched from Zion United Methodist Church in Marion, Ala., towards the city jail to protest the incarceration of a young civil rights worker.

In this group were Jackson, his mother Viola and grandfather, 82-year-old Cager Lee Jackson.

The march was cut short when city police officers, sheriff’s deputies and state troopers blocked the passageway. Minutes later, chaos ensued. Troopers chased a group of protesters into a nearby caf.

Armed with billy clubs, the troopers began to attack Jackson’s mother and grandfather. When Jackson attempted to help his family, a state trooper shot him in the stomach. Eight days later, Jackson succumbed to his wounds in Selma’s Good Samaritan Hospital.

Jackson’s case has never been prosecuted.

Last year, James Bernard Fowler admitted to shooting Jackson. In an interview with The Anniston Star Fowler said, “Jimmy Lee Jackson was not murdered. He was trying to kill me. I have no doubt in my mind that, under the emotional situation at the time, if he would have gotten complete control of my pistol, he would have killed me or shot me.”

Fowler also said he is not afraid of being indicted.

“I don’t think legally I could get convicted of murder now no matter how much politics they got ’cause after 40 years they ain’t no telling how many people is dead,” he said.

Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Charles Price presided over the proceedings. Price swore in the jury – the audience – asking them to look at all evidence objectively.

Kindaka Sanders and Prince Darius Chestnut were the trial prosecutors. Faya Ora Rose Toure was the state defense attorney. Minister Kamau Kenyatta portrayed the state trooper.

“Jimmie Lee Jackson was a man, flesh and blood, 26-years-old, in the prime of his life,” Chestnut said in his opening statement. “Evidence will show that this man was the type of gentleman that wouldn’t hurt a flea. He was killed in cold blood.”

“We’re going to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that not only (the state trooper) but the state of Alabama is guilty of murder.”

Toure then gave the state’s opening statement.

“Colored folk want justice, but the wrong man is on trial,” she said. “They gonna go run and find the first white man they can find.”

Several witnesses were asked to testify during the proceedings. First on the stand was Jackson’s mother Viola, played by Helen Moore. Moore began to recall the day of Jackson’s murder.

“We were doin’ some singin’, shoutin’ and praisin’ the Lord. Next thing we know we heard some noise outside and all hell broke loose. They were beatin’ us, hollin’ at us. All kinds of stuff,” she said.

They said, ‘Y’all gonna get it. Y’all negroes need to stay in y’all place.”

Others who testified were Tyina Steptoe, who played Jackson’s sister Irma, Mr. Whistleblower, an old friend of the state trooper, Jeannie “Spring Breeze” Bryant, who played a marcher, and Clifford Albright and Sheila Lennon, who both played historians and.

Kenyatta, the state trooper, was the last person to testify. He said he shot Jackson in self-defense.

“I was in fear of my life,” he said.

Kindaka Sanders made the closing statement, saying a hit was ordered on Jackson’s

life once he was born into a black-hating America. Toure agreed with Sanders, citing the state trooper was born into the a system that taught him to disrespect anything that was black.

“Don’t send a man to jail because of a system that is evil,” she concluded.

It took the jury a few minutes to reach a verdict.

In closing Judge Price said thanked the audience for their participation and encouraged them to fulfill jury service.

“Jury duty is sacred,” Price said.

“It is how you level the playing field. If you’re on jury duty and you don’t have the reasons to get off jury duty, serve your time.”

April Albright, the trial coordinator, thanked the witnesses, lawyers and Price for their “stellar” performances. Although the trial was not real, an underlying truth remains.

“We still want justice for (Jackson’s) life,” she said.