WTVM Special Report: Inside the mind of Criminal Defense - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

WTVM Special Report: Inside the mind of Criminal Defense

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Sometimes there's a thin line between guilty and innocent. We go behind the scenes of the area's most high-profile cases with the defense attorney that fought them all.

If you watch a lot of crime shows, you know how tense things can get when cases go to trial.

That's apparently true in every court, regardless of location, especially murder trials.

News Leader 9's Chuck Leonard takes us into the courtroom with one of the top defense attorneys in this area,  

Stacey Jackson is one of the most sought after defense attorneys in Columbus. His name is connected to several high profile cases, many of them murders. 

In fact, homicides may be Jackson's specialty. In the past several years, he has defended some two-dozen clients charged with the ultimate crime.  

Jackson's also been featured on national television programs and believe it or not is doing what he always wanted to do. 

When asked how he got into the law business in the first place, Jackson said it was because of the two shows "L.A. Law" and "Law and Order." 

”Specifically, the 'Law and Order' show," Jackson said. "There was a young, black, aggressive attorney, prosecutor, and I just wanted to be you know that guy. That was just inspiring for me, I was around seventh or eighth grade, and as I got into college or what have you, I still wanted to pursue that. So that's kind of where it all started."

Speaking of college, Jackson earned his law degree from graduated from the University of Dayton. He returned to Columbus and went to work as a law clerk for Judges Doug Pullen and William Smith.

He was eventually hired as a prosecutor, an assistant to District Attorney Gray Conger. Their biggest case was the trial of three Fort Benning soldiers accused of killing a buddy.

Jackson helped prosecute the case, which ended with two of the soldiers being given life sentences 

When Conger lost his bid for reelection in 2008, Jackson left the DA's office and went into private practice.

Here he has flourished, winning more than half of his murder cases. That does not mean all of his clients have been freed. 

"Any time you have a murder case someone is facing life in prison," Jackson said. "Sometimes, life without the possibility of parole. So anytime where you may get a reduction in charge, say voluntary manslaughter possibly or maybe aggravated assault, technically that's a win." 

Jackson's biggest win was defending Kareem Lane, charged with the 1992 stabbing death of school superintendent Jim Burns.

Police stopped Lane in his Ford pickup the night of the murder. He was questioned but eventually released.  

Eighteen years later, new DNA evidence led to Lane's arrest, and his eventual trial for murder. 

"One thing that didn't come out at trial is that there was an individual that was stopped by a deputy sheriff, not long after the police were called, out on I-185 south in a gray Ford Ranger," Jackson said. "Stopped, pulled over I believe for a DUI."

Jackson was unable to find the deputy who stopped that truck, but he apparently didn't need to. 

The trial ended with a hung jury, and most were willing to set Lane free.

"After talking to a couple of jurors, it was 10 to acquit," Jackson said. "So even going into the second trial we were even more confident because of the numbers."

The confidence paid off.  Last September, a jury found Lane not guilty and he was set free.

Jackson's reaction?

"Sigh of relief, because I really believe, and I know that Kareem Lane did not commit that crime," Jackson said. 

District attorney Julia Slater continues to insist that Kareem Lane did kill Dr. Burns. 

Jackson, on the other hand, says he has his own theories in the case but prefers to keep them to himself.

Join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #CriminalDefense.

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