Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Impending Execution of Henry Jackson

Henry Curtis Jackson sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Mississippi on 5 June. I offer a summary of his crime from the adverse appellate decision of Jackson v. State (1996).
Henry Curtis Jackson, Jr. was indicted by a grand jury of the Leflore County Circuit Court in connection with the November 1, 1990 stabbing deaths of his four young nieces and nephews and aggravated assaults upon his sister and another niece while he was in search of money kept in a safe in his mother's home near Greenwood, Mississippi. ... 
Mrs. Jackson and four of her older grandchildren left her home in the Rising Sun community, south of Greenwood, Mississippi, for church at the Sweet Home Church of God in Christ at around 7:00 p.m. on November 1, 1990. Her daughter, Regina Jackson, stayed at home with her two daughters, five-year old Dominique and two-year old Shunterica, and four nieces and nephews, eleven-year old Sarah, three-year old Antonio, two-year old Andrew and one-year old Andrea. While they were watching an hour-long Cosby Show special on television, Regina's older brother, Henry Curtis Jackson, known to the family as "Curtis," knocked on the door and came inside. He asked Regina for a cigarette and then ran to the bathroom, asking her to fix him something for an upset stomach. Sarah recalled that Jackson asked if her Uncles Greg or Johnny were coming over and then put a glove over his hand and wiped clean the knob of the living room door. 
Jackson then asked Regina to check the telephone and she discovered it was dead. Together with Antonio, she left for a neighbor's house. Jackson directed Sarah to call her back. He then caught Regina from behind, with one hand around her neck and one around her stomach. He asked her if she had gotten her check and told her that "he wanted twenty dollars for some ass." When she said she didn't have the money, he pulled a knife out and pushed "one in my chin and one in my stomach." Regina yelled for Sarah, who came running and jumped on Jackson's back. The three struggled and then began to talk. Regina testified: 
We said, "Curtis, we love you. Why do you want to do us like this. Don't kill us, Curtis." He just went on and was talking about what he wanted to do. He told me, he said, "Regina, I love you but I have got to kill you." 
When Regina asked Jackson what he wanted, he told her that he had come to get the safe that was kept in Mrs. Jackson's bedroom closet. The safe contained cash, jewelry and a certificate of deposit belonging to Mrs. Jackson and her son, Eddie Self. She testified that only Self's daughter, Tara, and Mrs. Jackson knew the combination to the safe. She further stated: 
He really wanted the combination but my niece, Sarah, kept telling him to get the safe and go ahead. He said, naw, cause he came to kill us that Thursday and didn't kill us and he came to kill us that Saturday and he didn't kill us and he said he was going to kill all of us tonight. 
He then took Regina into Tara's room and tried to open the footlocker where he had been told the combination was kept. At that point, Regina testified, he began stabbing Sarah in the neck and took them into the little boys' room where he told them to let him tie them up. Regina, who had already been stabbed several times, picked up some iron rods that Jackson had brought in from the bathroom and started hitting him with them. He then picked up the baby, Andrea, and used her as a shield. Regina relinquished the rods and let him tie her up with a belt. He stabbed her again in the neck. While she watched, he picked up her daughter, two-year old Shunterica, by the hair, stabbed her and laid her on one of the beds. Jackson started dragging the safe down the hall, which awakened five-year old Dominique. She came down the hall, calling for her mother, at which time, Regina testified, Jackson told her that he loved her, stabbed her and threw her on the floor. He walked over to Regina and again "drilled the knife" in her neck. Regina pretended she was dead until she heard him go into the bathroom and out the window. 
Sarah recalls responding to Regina's cries for help, finding her in the boys' bedroom with Jackson sticking one knife at her chin and the other at her waist. Referring to the stab wounds in Regina's neck, Sarah testified that she "had some meat hanging from her chin." Sarah jumped on Jackson's back in an attempt to stop him. Regina then tried to hit Jackson with an iron rod he had brought in from the bathroom. At that point, Sarah testified, Regina told her that Jackson had stabbed Shunterica. Sarah tried to comfort her baby sister, Andrea, and told Antonio to run for help. Jackson called the child back. Regina, by this time, had fainted and Jackson was trying to wake her up. Once he had done that, he grabbed Sarah again and began stabbing her in the neck. After the knife broke off in her neck, he ran to the kitchen, retrieved another knife, stabbed her again and threw her on a bed. Sarah, too, pretended she was dead. She heard her brother, Antonio, yelling for help and saw Jackson kneeling over him. While Sarah did not actually see Jackson stabbing him, she testified that "... I saw his hand moving when he was over him. I didn't see but I knew he was doing something cause my little brother was hollering." She likewise did not witness the stabbing of Andrew, but when she saw him, "[h]e was on the bottom of the bed and his eyes were bulging and his mouth was wide open." 
In his statement given to police, Jackson stated that he began stabbing Regina in the side while they were arguing. After that, referring to Sarah and the children, he said, "they all was coming at me and I just was stabbing." Elaborating, he stated: 
After I stabbed Regina, she kept coming and Sarah came in and I couldn't see her from the back. I know I stabbed her back there and they both got in front of me. I don't know if I stabbed her, but I was hitting back. 
Regina had a rod or something on hand, I guess up to the window or something. I know I seen her reach up to the window and pull something out. Regina was fighting at me with the rod. I ... Yeah, it was a rod, an iron rod. I was stabbing at her. Sarah was at the back. Her and the other little kids were hollering and — I guess they thought me and Regina was just into it, at first. She was hitting me with something. I don't know what Sarah had. 
He had no specific recollection of stabbing the children. 
Angelo Maurice Geens, Mrs. Jackson's cousin and neighbor, returned to his home at about 8:30 p.m. that night. Sarah ran to him from the bushes where she had been hiding and told him that Regina and the others were in the house; her uncle had killed them. Geens carried her into his mother's house and called the police and an ambulance. Deputy Sheriff J.B. Henry and Deputies Tindall, Berdin and Fondren arrived at the scene and discovered the children's bodies. 
Sarah Jackson underwent surgery for five potentially serious stab wounds to her abdomen, chest and neck, including a lacerated windpipe. Regina suffered five serious stab wounds to her neck. Baby Andrea suffered a single penetrating stab wound to her neck which caused a tracheal injury and profoundly damaged her spinal cord. As a result, she is unable to walk and has no fine motor control in her arms. 
Leflore County Coroner James R. Hankins pronounced the four children dead at the scene. The bodies were sent to the Deputy State Medical Examiner for forensic pathology examinations. Dr. Steven Hayne, who performed autopsies on the children, testified that Shunterica suffered three stab wounds to the neck and two shoulder abrasions. Her jugular vein was severed, leading Dr. Hayne to opine that she ultimately bled to death. Andrew sustained three stab wounds to the neck. The first cut through the carotid artery and the jugular vein. Another missed the trachea, but went into his backbone and severed the spinal cord. Dr. Hayne opined that such an injury "would require a considerable amount of strength" and noted the presence of a pinpoint hemorrhage caused by force on the child's neck. Dominique, too, died of multiple stab wounds to the neck. Three of the four stab wounds cut her jugular vein and trachea. Antonio suffered four stab wounds and two slash wounds. His trachea was cut and Dr. Hayne determined that he died as a result of a chest wound which cut through his heart. 
Meanwhile, Jackson had become the subject of an extensive manhunt. While still at the Jackson residence, Deputy Sheriff Tindall received a call from the Highway Patrol regarding a wrecked car in Eupora just fifty yards from the site where the Eupora Police Department had been conducting a routine license check. The 1977 green Monte Carlo bore a license tag registered to Martha Jackson's 1973 brown Ford station wagon. A wallet containing Jackson's identification was found on the front console and his own license tag as well as a long, dark trench coat were found in the trunk of the vehicle. 
Jackson had abandoned his car when he saw the roadblock and taken off on foot through the woods. Eluding canine search teams, he jumped a train from Eupora to West Point. On Monday morning, November 5, 1990, he turned himself in to the West Point Police Department. At that time, Jackson gave a statement to Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks, who had been summoned to West Point. He stated that, knowing his mother would be at church, he had gone to her house to get the safe because he needed more money to pay his bills. He had brought a kitchen knife with him that was in the car and when he heard someone in the house, went around the back to cut the telephone line. After stabbing Regina and the children, he tried to move the safe and to find a second safe she had mentioned. Noticing lights at the house across the street, he then climbed out the bathroom window and fled to his car, which was parked about two blocks away at Rising Sun High School. 
On March 12, 1991, Jackson was indicted on four counts of capital murder, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of armed robbery by a grand jury of the Leflore County Circuit Court. Under Counts 1 through 4, Jackson was charged with the deaths of two-year-old Shunterica Lonnett Jackson, five-year-old Dominique Devro Jackson, three-year-old Antonio Terrell Jackson and two-year-old Andrew Odutola Kuyoro, Jr.
I oppose any execution where the person to be executed might be actually innocent of the crime for which he is scheduled to die. In all other cases, I stand mute. I neither oppose nor support the execution.

In the case of Henry Jackson, I stand mute.

The Case of Preston Hughes III: Where's Willis?

In one episode of Married with Children ("Cheese, Cues, and Blood"), Al Bundy needed to raise money quickly. He did so by selling nine pints of his blood.

Kelly:  Daddy, you look so pale. 
Al:  Perhaps that's because I've been running all over town, selling pints of blood to nine blood banks. 
Jefferson:  Al, the human body only holds eight pints. 
Al:  Well, that's what they say, but the brain hides some.
Not much later in the episode:
Jefferson:  Well Al, you're looking better. You've stopped air-guitaring "It's a Small World". 
Al:  Yeah, it's the beer. Turns out, the brain doesn't need blood. Just gotta keep the brain wet.
Blood Volume
In an average healthy adult, the volume of blood is about one-eleventh of the body weight. Most sources state the volume of blood in an average human adult, who is between 150 to 160 pounds, as between 4.7 and 5 liters, although the more recent sources state the volume of blood in an average adult as 4.7 liters.
There are 2.11 pints in a liter. The average healthy adult, weighing around 150 pounds, therefore has around ten pints of blood, not eight. I advise that you don't rely on Al Bundy (or any of The Married With Children cast) for medical advice. The human body can hold more than eight pints of blood, and the brain cannot survive on beer alone.

Shandra Charles weighed 127 pounds. I therefore estimate her blood volume was 4 liters, at least before someone used a double-edge knife to sever her carotid artery and jugular vein, then left her in that dark, overgrown lot to bleed out onto the trail. 

According to The Journal of Animal Science, a three-year-old, 156-pound sheep has a blood volume of 4.1 liters. That is coincidentally nearly identical to the blood volume I calculated for Shandra Charles.

Cardiac Output
From The Textbook of Medical Physiology, by Dr. John E. Hall
Note that the plateau level of this normal cardiac output curve is about 13 L/min, 2.5 times the normal cardiac output of around 5 L/min.This means that the normal human heart, functioning without any special stimulation, can pump an amount of venous return up to about 2.5 times the normal venous return before the heart becomes a limiting factor in the control of cardiac output.  ...
[M]aximal nervous excitation of the heart can raise the plateau level of the cardiac output curve to almost twice the plateau of the normal curve, as shown by the 25 L/min level of the uppermost curve ...
To be clear, author John Hall was discussing the cardiac output of humans. Assuming you want to know about the cardiac output of sheep, I recommend you read the mega-hit Anoxia, Oxygen Consumption and Cardiac Output in New-Born Lambs and Adult Sheep. Pay particular attention to Table 1 of that paper. It shows that adult sheep have a normal cardiac output of 5.2 liters per minute. That's remarkably close to Shandra's normal cardiac output of 5 liters per minute.

Now let's do some simple math. Assume a sheep with a blood volume of 4.1 liters and a cardiac output of 5.2 liters per minute. Assume further that the cardiac output would not change due to excitation (because the sheep would be anesthetized) or to changes in back-pressure or for any other reason. Given these assumptions, a sheep's heart could empty its body of blood in just 47 seconds.

Using a rule of thumb that someone (or somesheep) will die after losing half its blood, then the sheep assumed above would die in 24 seconds. Had the sheep's cardiac output been increased by a factor of 2 because it was suddenly aware it was about to die, then it would have died in just 12 seconds.

It's not surprising therefore that sheep (now plural) lose brain function just 15 seconds after both of their common carotids and both of their jugular veins have been severed.

The brain needs a continuous supply fresh blood. If instead the blood is pumped onto a lonely dirt trail in a dark, overgrown field, then the brain will quickly cease to function.


The Circle of Willis
In Pools of Blood, I explained that hockey players Clint Malarcuk and Richard Zednik survived cuts to their carotid arteries. They survived because they received prompt first aid. Someone nearby stopped blood from escaping from their carotid. While your brain clearly, absolutely, and unequivocally needs blood, it does not need that both carotid arteries supply that blood. In a pinch, if you excuse the pun, either will do

Due either to evolution or some really good, supernatural engineering (argue among yourselves), mammals such a humans and sheep are equipped with an interconnected plethora of arteries supplying the brain. This highly-evolved / well-engineered (argue among yourselves) collection of vessels is known as the Circle of Willis.

Here's a handy-dandy cross-section through someone's head showing the not-nearly-circular circle.

Check the upper-leftmost block of text. It says INTERNAL CAROTID ARTERIES. Follow the accompanying arrows. There they are: transected carotid arteries.

Somewhere above the upper portion of the neck, each common carotid artery divides into an internal and an external carotid artery. It is the internal carotid that is primarily responsible for supplying the brain with blood. In the image, you can see that the two internal carotids are connected to one another both front and rear, both anterior and posterior, by other arteries. Welcome to the Circle of Willis.

Shandra Charles died not because one of her common carotid arteries had been transected by a double-edged knife, at least not directly. She died because her blood spurted out of that transected artery onto a dirt path, and because there was no one there who could and would pinch that artery closed.

Shandra Charles did not die because her body had no intact pathway for supplying her brain with blood. She died because she ran out of blood.

The pathway was there, via the Circle of Willis.

The blood was not. It was soaking into the dirt beneath her neck. 

Time of Consciousness
We now have a pretty good upper limit on how long Shandra Charles feared for her life after having been stabbed. Based on the experimental data collected on sheep, and given that sheep and humans evolved from a common ancestor / were designed similarly (argue among yourselves), and because Shandra's blood volume and cardiac output were nearly identical to those of an adult sheep, we can be confident that Shandra Charles maintained brain function for no more than 90 seconds after having her common carotid artery transected by a double-edge blade.

Given that her cardiac output was probably elevated due to the dreadful "excitation" of the attack, it is likely that she lapsed into unconsciousness even more quickly.

It is impossible that she calmly provided Sgt. Hamilton with a dying declaration.

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