- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2009

The case of a woman accused of killing her four daughters will be decided by a judge instead of a jury, after the woman insisted Thursday on a bench trial over the objections of her own lawyers.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg granted Banita Jacks a trial July 13 and will decide the case himself.

The decomposing bodies of Miss Jacks’ daughters - ages 5 to 17 - were found in January 2008 when deputy U.S. marshals served an eviction notice at Miss Jacks’ home in Southeast. She pleaded not guilty in September to charges of premeditated first-degree murder.

At Thursday’s hearing, Judge Weisberg asked Miss Jacks whether she knew what it would mean to forgo a jury trial and whether she thought she would have a better outcome with a jury. “Yes,” she said.

Peter Krauthamer, a public defender representing Miss Jacks, objected to her request. “She’s taken positions that I disagree with tactically,” Mr. Krauthamer said.

Judge Weisberg said he has found Miss Jacks capable of making voluntary and intelligent decisions - though he said he might make different choices if he were in her position.

Mr. Krauthamer asked to delay the trial and begin another inquiry into Miss Jacks’ mental health, saying he does not believe she is competent. He also said Miss Jacks has refused to meet with him during a couple of recent visits.

Miss Jacks said she had been fasting and had asked officers to tell her attorneys that was her reason for not meeting with them. Miss Jacks said she doesn’t foresee having to fast again before the trial, but may have to if things are not going well.

In May, Miss Jacks’ attorneys said she had refused to meet with her attorneys for six weeks as they tried to prepare for her trial. At that time, Miss Jacks also said she had been fasting and engaged in all-day prayer.

Judge Weisberg declined to order another mental health evaluation because he said previous reviews concluded she was competent. He said he has found her to be “completely lucid” and believes she has a “factual and rational” understanding of her case.

The judge said although Miss Jacks is free to make her own choices about her case, he urged her to meet with her attorneys.

“The stakes are very high,” Judge Weisberg said. “It’s a very serious case.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide