It’s a minimum of four-and-a-half decades in prison for Avery Berry after being found guilty in Morgan County Court on Friday of murdering Marcus Jackson.
Jurors took nine hours to reach a verdict after a two-day trial. Berry is accused of fatally shooting Jackson during a skirmish involving Jackson and Berry’s half-brother Shakil in October 2014.
Jurors were instructed to first reach a first-degree murder verdict yesterday, and then determine if Berry met the criteria for the lesser charge of second-degree murder.
Assistant State’s Attorney Chad Turner explained to jurors that they had to determine that Avery Berry believed he was justified in shooting Jackson to convict him on the second-degree charge. Turner argued Berry was not justified, and that his testimony from Thursday was not credible.
Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll says the amount of time jurors took to reach a decision wasn’t surprising to him.
“It was a very serious case. I think you could tell from the beginning that the jury was very serious about their role in this process, and I think they took their role very seriously,” Noll says. “They did a good job of deliberating and going over every piece of evidence.”
The jury interrupted their deliberation three times to seek answers to several questions. The first was whether Berry would go on trial again in the event of a hung jury. The second sought clarification on the second-degree murder instructions. Jurors also asked for a transcript of Avery Berry’s testimony.
Berry’s attorney Bruce Locher declined to go on tape with us after the verdict was announced, but said he wanted to find out how the refusal of a transcript affected the outcome.
When asked if he would appeal the outcome, Locher said, “we’re not there yet”, and hinted at the possibility of a request for a new trial.
Jeanette Jackson, Marcus Jackson’s mother, was consoled by family members after the verdict.
“I’m just so happy with the state and Jacksonville Police Department right now. They did a wonderful job to help bring justice for me and my kids, and Marcus,” says Jackson.
Noll offered his condolences to the Jackson family, and told reporters the killing of Marcus Jackson was a senseless act that never should have happened.
“Hopefully today’s proceedings give the Jackson family at least some sort of closure. But it certainly won’t bring Marcus back,” says Noll.
“I feel the Jacksonville Police Department is owed a very big debt of gratitude. I think they did a spectacular job, along with my staff, my staff has put in a lot of long hours preparing for this trial, and they were very willing and able to help victims of crimes and their families,” he adds.
Noll told members of the Jackson family after the verdict was announced that the Berry family, members of which were in attendance for this week’s proceedings on the opposite side of the courtroom, might try to provoke the Jacksons in the aftermath of the verdict. He told them to try to avoid confrontations.
There was a heavy presence of Jacksonville police officers and Morgan County Sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom and in the parking lot as observers cleared out.
Berry faces a sentencing range of 45 years to life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for October 5th.
Read our previous stories covering this week’s trial below.