A Michigan judge has ruled that a man convicted of raping and murdering his infant son should be resentenced to a term of years instead of life without parole.
WARNING: This Story Contains Disturbing Details. Reader Discretion is Advised.
Damon Andrew Jackson both raped and shook his one-month-old son David while the newborn stayed with him overnight on September 2, 1997, according to Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Denenfeld’s decision, which cites facts set forth by the Michigan Court of Appeals in the People v Damon Jackson case from 2003. Jackson was 17 years old at the time of his crimes and just three weeks shy of his 18th birthday, WOOD-TV reports.
The following morning, the infant was taken to the hospital as he suffered from “repeated seizures and had difficulty breathing,” the decision states. David had “obvious brain stem damage,” retinal hemorrhaging in both eyes, and was determined to be “definitively” sexually abused. A CT scan showed the child had brain bleeding from two different dates, with the older date being one to two weeks before the scan. The child had been in Jackson’s care twice in August before the September incident and was physically abused by Jackson both times, “but the abuse was not discovered,” the decision states.
David was expected to survive for one month but lived to be two years old under the care of foster parents.
“(During that time) he required constant care. He suffered seizures, cried often, and was incapable of becoming comfortable. He was blind and deaf, and suffered from other severe defects as well,” noted Denenfeld, according to WOOD-TV. Upon the child’s death, Jackson was charged with first-degree murder, was convicted by a jury, and sentenced to life without parole in 2001.
Now, a 42-year-old Jackson is considered a “juvenile lifer” whose sentence “required review after the U.S. Supreme Court declared mandatory life without parole for juveniles unconstitutional,” WOOD-TV reports.
Kent County prosecutor Chris Becker fought to have Jackson’s sentence maintained as it was one of 24 “juvenile life” sentences he reviewed. It was one of the 12 cases in which the office decided to fight for maintained sentences.
A “juvenile lifers” who raped and killed his 1-month-old son is now set to be resentenced. https://t.co/j8KQAGbLXs
— WOOD TV8 (@WOODTV) February 16, 2022
Becker told WOOD-TV:
This (crime) goes to a level of really serious depravity that quite frankly I don’t think anyone’s ever seen. I can’t think of another case where we’ve had a 1-month-old raped, sodomized, and everything else that happened to this 1-month-old child in the history of Kent County, be it juvenile or adult.
“This is probably one of the worst crimes, if not the worst, that I can recall in my career,” he added.
Laurel Leivense, the adoptive mother of David’s sister, is outraged that Jackson will be resentenced.
“(Jackson) wasn’t 14. He wasn’t 12. He was three weeks before he turned 18. Old enough to make two children,” Leivense told WOOD-TV.
“That child was murdered. He lived two and a half years in a vegetative state,” she said. “I want this judge to know, this baby, before he died, he had seizures every day. He couldn’t handle being touched.”
Denenfeld ordered the “resentencing based in part on the defendant’s own ‘shockingly dysfunctional and abusive’ childhood as well as his ‘stellar’ prison record over the last two decades,” WOOD-TV reports.
The judge laid out in his 22-page decision the factors the Supreme Court set forth for reviewing cases, Per WOOD-TV:
Those factors include a juvenile defendant’s “immaturity, impetuosity and failure to appreciate risks and consequences,” their “family and home environment,” the “circumstances of the homicide offense,” the juvenile’s potential “inability to deal with police officers and prosecutors” and the “possibility of rehabilitation.”
Denenfeld noted that Jackson’s home environment while a child was “filled with continuous brutal physical and sexual abuse and controlled by a father who constantly beat the children and sexually abused his daughter, for which he was charged.”
He noted his mother was untreated for bipolar disorder, and both parents abused drugs and alcohol. “(The siblings) and the defendant described an aggressive father who used a braided switch, extension cord, or belt to regularly beat them for no reason,” Denenfeld wrote per WOOD-TV.
Denenfeld cited Jackson’s record in prison and the prison’s risk assessment tool, which found Jackson was a “LOW risk for violence and a LOW risk for recidivism.”
Per WOOD-TV, Denenfeld wrote:
In more than 20 years of imprisonment, the defendant has had no fights, no weapon possessions, no drug or alcohol violations and no assaultive behavior or physical resistance to staff. It is indisputable that the defendant’s shockingly dysfunctional and abusive home environment had a significant impact on him as a teenager and young adult. It is also clear the defendant’s prison records are stellar and that he has indeed been rehabilitated. Therefore, the court concludes that a term of years, and not a Life Without Parole sentence, is appropriate.
A date has not been set for resentencing, though Denenfeld noted that the sentence must be a minimum of 25 years or a maximum of 60 years under state law. If sentenced to the minimum of 25 years, Jackson could be released in the next four years as he has already served 21, according to WOOD-TV.
Leivense slammed Denenfeld for his decision.
“This little boy was tortured. … Shook and raped, and shook and raped, and shook and raped,” she told WOOD-TV. “This judge greatly diminished the crime that Damon committed. Damon committed murder after he tortured this little body.”