The case of

Jennifer Jackson

jennifer_jackson
Victim

Jennifer Jackson

Victim Race

Caucasian

Victim Date of Birth

1965-11-10

Victim Age

39

Date Reported

2005-06-05

Date of Death

2005-06-05

Case Status

Open

Incident Location

Memphis, Tennessee

Body Location

Victim's Bedroom

Date of Conviction

2014-08-22

Body Discovered Date

2005-06-05

Murderer

Two Young Women’s Lives are Changed Forever 

On Sunday, June 5, 2005, at 5:00 am, Noura Jackson called 911. She desperately pleaded for help for her mother, who was bleeding and wasn’t breathing. She begged the operator to send an ambulance to their home in Memphis, Tennessee. When the EMT arrived, they found 39-year-old Jennifer Jackson’s body lying on her bedroom floor. She had been stabbed 50 times.

The investigation started with very few leads. Jennifer was a single mother who lived alone with her only child, 18-year-old Noura Jackson. No one in the neighborhood had seen an intruder. The police questioned Jennifer’s boyfriend, but he was at home asleep at the time of the murder. His cell phone records were his alibi. He tried calling Jennifer, but he hung up when she didn’t answer. He lived more than an hour away, and his cell phone connected to a tower near his home. The police also questioned Noura. She said she had gone to a party with some friends. She left the party around midnight and stopped at a gas station and Taco Bell. When she came home, she found her mother’s body. However, in her initial statement, Noura did not mention that she also stopped at Walgreens. Noura would later explain that she didn’t tell the police about stopping at Walgreens because she didn’t think it was necessary. She injured her hand on a broken bottle at the party, and she stopped to buy bandaids for the cut. A former friend would testify that Noura asked for a bandage at the party.

When the Memphis Police Department’s investigation didn’t produce any results, the case went to Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Amy Weirich, who was considered to be a highly skilled lawyer in the Memphis prosecutor’s office. She believed that Noura was tired of living under her mother’s rules and murdered her for money. Jennifer was a successful investment banker. Her estate and life insurance policy was worth $1.5 million. Noura’s father, Nazmi Hassanieh, had got back in touch with Noura when she was 16, and they spoke often. A little over a year before Jennifer was murdered, Nazmi was shot and killed. The person who shot him was never found.

The Shelby County sheriffs arrested Noura Jackson in September. Even though she had no history of violence, Weirich wanted her to serve a life sentence. Judge Christopher Craft of Shelby County set her bond at $500,000, which Noura could not afford. She spent three and a half years in jail while waiting for her murder trial on heavy doses of anxiety medication and anti-depressants.

Jennifer Jackson’s Circumstantial Evidence and Defamation

Noura’s lawyer, Valerie Corder, thought the case against her was weak. When Noura was arrested, the police were still waiting for DNA results from the blood spatter found in Jennifer’s bedroom. The forensic evidence suggested that two or three people had been in the room that night. Their identities were unknown. However, Noura’s DNA did not match any of the DNA profiles found at the crime scene, which Weirich dismissed. No other physical evidence linked Noura to the murder.

Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Weirich called multiple witnesses during Noura’s trial, portraying her as a teenager with behavioral challenges. One of the witnesses was a neighbor that testified she overheard Noura and her mother fighting often. Noura’s half-uncle said he heard her and Jennifer arguing over selling her father’s cars, and one of her aunts said Noura became ill-tempered after Jennifer threatened to send her to boarding school and drug test her. The two family members who testified against Noura also sued her for her mother’s life insurance policy and estate.

A second prosecutor named Stephen Jones assisted at the trial. He also called upon several witnesses who described Noura as a partying drug addict. Much of the testimony had nothing to do with Jennifer’s death. Still, Judge Chris Craft allowed it, giving the prosecution a chance to sway the jury into thinking of Noura as an out-of-control teenager.

The prosecution also mentioned the small cut on Noura’s hand, between her thumb and forefinger. They told the jury that when she was questioned about how she got the injury, Noura told her friends and family different explanations. They asked why Noura did not mention the stop she made at Walgreens early in the morning when Jennifer was murdered. They presented a video of her buying bandaids to the jury.

However, the defense argued that the cut on Noura’s hand proved her innocence. Noura had an acrylic manicure, which can be seen in photos taken at the party. The police said Jennifer had fought back against her attacker, but Noura’s manicure did not have a single chip based on the pictures taken at the police station. They also argued that if Noura had cut her hand while killing her mother, the forensic evidence from the bedroom would have included her blood.

Towards the end of the trial, the prosecution introduced a witness who testified that Noura was at home right before her mother’s body was found. A friend of Noura’s, Andrew Hammack, claimed that she called him between 4:00 and 5:00 am and asked him to come over. Weirich asked Hammack if it was normal for Noura to invite him to her place and if she had ever done that before. He said no. The prosecution believed that Noura used Hammack as an alibi and a witness.

Noura’s lawyer was worried about how she would handle the cross-examination process with the medication she was taking and urged her not to testify. The defense called no witnesses and emphasized to the jury that the forensic evidence did not point to Noura.

After a nine-hour deliberation, the jury announced a guilty verdict of second-­degree murder, and Noura Jackson was given a 20-year sentence.

Jennifer Jackson’s Chance for Redemption

Five days later, Stephen Jones, one of the prosecutors, filed a motion to submit evidence that had previously not been included at the trial. It was a handwritten note that Noura’s friend, Andrew Hammack, had given to the police during the start of the murder investigation. Jones said the police had given him the letter in the middle of the trial, and then he forgot about it. Hammack wrote that he left his cellphone with a friend, so he didn’t have it with him, and he was high on drugs the night of Jennifer’s death. Valerie Corder, Noura’s lawyer, had repeatedly asked the prosecution before and during the trial for all the state’s information on Hammack and believed that the note raised the question of whether he was a credible witness. Armed with the new evidence, Corder appealed Noura’s conviction to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court overturned Noura Jackson’s second-degree murder conviction on August 22, 2014. The justices said that no DNA evidence linked Noura to the crime scene and that the prosecution’s case was based on circumstantial evidence. They also pointed out the importance of the note in correlation to Hammack’s testimony which suggested that he may not have told the truth about Noura calling and asking him to meet her at her house. Hammack’s cellphone records showed that Noura had contacted him but did not show whether he answered; his phone records also revealed that he had texted Noura but did not show the content of the texts. If Noura’s lawyer had the note, Corder would have had to chance to argue that Hammack could be a suspect since the letter contradicted his alibi. The court found out that Hammack’s friends went to the police after the murder. They said they didn’t know where Hammack was that night, but he had been acting strange ever since. The police didn’t investigate further.

The Tennessee Supreme Court admonished the prosecution’s failure to provide a fair trial and disclose Hammack’s note. They also said Weirich had violated Noura’s constitutional rights by demanding she disclose her location during the prosecution’s closing argument. The Constitution protects the right to remain silent, including a defendant’s choice not to testify. The Tennessee justices also cited three previous cases where Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Amy Weirich and her office had faced charges of ethical violations for making damaging claims to juries.

When Noura learned about her reversed conviction, she had been in prison for nine years. Weirich announced shortly after that she would retry the case, but Noura also had a new lawyer, Michael Working, who was helping alongside Valerie Corder. Noura was still facing murder charges. She had a right to a hearing, and Judge Christopher Craft was to decide a bond she could pay to be released until the new trial. However, Craft refused for administrative reasons, and after Noura was moved to a jail close to the courthouse, she continued to wait. Her defense attorneys argued that Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Weirich be removed from the case and a new prosecutor appointed.

Five months later, Weirich agreed to transfer Noura’s case to a neighboring district attorney’s office in January 2015. But Judge Chris Craft still would not grant Noura a bond hearing. That May, the new prosecutor offered her a reduced sentence if she accepted an Alford plea, which would say she was guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Her lawyers asked the Tennessee Department of Corrections when Noura could be released, and they told them that she could be released the same day due to Noura’s good behavior and her work in prison.

On May 20, 2015, Noura signed the Alford plea deal that her lawyers negotiated. But a few days after signing her guilty plea, Noura learned that she was not eligible for release. She had to serve one more year. When her lawyers confronted the Department of Corrections about the incorrect information provided by staff members, a spokeswoman for the department said no one recalled having a conversation with Noura’s attorneys.

When Noura Jackson was finally released from the prison, she moved in with Ansley Larsson, a friend of her mother’s, who had agreed to let Noura live with her, but she found it hard to be in Memphis. Noura could tell when people would realize who she was. She decided to move to Nashville with her girlfriend, whom she met in prison. She waiting for a second trial and the chance for exoneration. Nina Morrison from the Innocence Project agreed to represent Noura and use the advancements in DNA evidence to determine who killed her mother.

Frequently asked questions

Is Noura Jackson still in jail?

After the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned her second-degree murder conviction and she signed an Alford Plea saying she was guilty of stabbing her mother to death, Noura Jackson eventually won her freedom in 2016 and was released from prison. 

Where is Noura Jackson today?

After Noura Jackson was released from prison, she moved to Nashville with her girlfriend, whom she met in jail, and worked for an autobody shop as a receptionist. She has grown close with her girlfriend’s family. 

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