- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A 33-year-old Douglas County prison inmate will serve at least 13 and a half more years behind bars after a judge resentenced him for his murder conviction when he was 17.

Earnest Jackson was originally sentenced to life in prison in the 1999 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Larry Perry, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/1rzkW3o ) reports. His new sentence was prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says judges must have the ability to sentence juveniles to something other than an automatic life term.

Before Jackson is eligible for parole, he must serve 13 and a half more years in prison under his 60- to 80-year sentence, which is cut in half to 30 to 40 years. Without parole, he must serve 23 and a half more years.

Attorney Jeff Pickens of the Nebraska Commission on Public Advocacy said Jackson’s conviction was murky and pointed to several reasons, including the fact that the prosecution’s key witness identified him only after seeing him with the other two defendants in an initial court hearing.

He also noted that Jackson was the only one of three co-defendants to be convicted. He said the other two defendants claimed self-defense because the victim in the case was armed with a gun. Pickens said he believes Jackson’s jury found him guilty of murder with the theory that he was an accomplice because he wasn’t convicted of an accompanying gun charge.

“I talk with people about this and they can’t believe something like this could happen,” Pickens said. “How can there be a conviction for aiding and abetting murder when the alleged principals are found not guilty? The unsatisfactory answer is, ‘That’s just the way it goes.’”

But prosecutor Katie Benson said that the resentencing hearing wasn’t a retrial. She said Perry was 17, just like Jackson, when he was killed. But unlike Jackson, she said, Perry didn’t get a second chance.

Benson also noted that the Nebraska Supreme Court has reviewed Jackson’s case and upheld the jury’s guilty verdict.

Like Pickens, Jackson’s family says he’s innocent.

“This is going to be so hard on him and us,” said Brenda Greer, Jackson’s mother, after hearing the sentence. “He was expecting a decent number. For this to be imposed on him, it’s just too much.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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