Jury won't hear about death of adopted son of Army major, wife during trial
By KAREN SUDOL
A federal jury will not hear about the death of an adopted child of an Army major and his wife who face trial on charges of inflicting “unimaginable cruelty” on their adopted children by allegedly withholding water, breaking bones and feeding them hot sauce, a judge ruled on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden said she would not permit any evidence of John and Carolyn Jackson’s son’s death to be shared with the jury not only because it would be “unduly prejudicial” to the couple, but would confuse and mislead the jury.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office sought to tell the jury that the Jacksons’ abuse contributed to the May 2008 death of the boy. The boy’s cause of death was determined to be due to natural causes and the Jacksons were never implicated in his death. However, it was revealed in court that an impaneled grand jury is investigating the facts and circumstances of his death that could lead to new charges against the couple.
The alleged abuse of the boy, as well as the couple’s failure to seek prompt medical care for him, will be conveyed to the jury at the trial scheduled to begin sometime in September.
John E. Jackson, 38, who wore full military dress uniform on Tuesday, and Carolyn, 36, of Mount Holly, sat quietly in the front row of the courtroom during the lengthy hearing that addressed multiple motions. John Jackson remains on active duty and is still assigned to Picatinny Arsenal in Morris County, said Frank Misurelli, a public affairs officer for Picatinny.
The couple, who have three biological children and adopted three more, are charged in a 17-count indictment with one count of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child, 13 counts of endangering the welfare of a child and three counts of assault.
From August 2005 through April 2010, the couple engaged in a course of neglect and cruelty primarily toward three children whom they fostered, then adopted, including the boy who died, the indictment alleges.
The Jacksons, who lived at the Picatinny Arsenal during part of the period cited in the indictment, allegedly assaulted their children with various objects; caused two of the foster children to sustain broken bones; withheld proper medical care from the foster children and deprived them of sufficient food and water, the indictment said.
The foster children also were forced to ingest hot sauce, red pepper flakes, raw onions and other substances that caused them pain and suffering, according to federal prosecutors. One child was fed excessive sodium while fluid-intake was restricted, causing the child to suffer hypernatremia and dehydration, a life-threatening condition, the indictment said.
The Jacksons instructed their biological children not to report the physical assaults to others, the indictment said, explaining that the punishments and disciplinary techniques were justified because they were “training” the adopted children how to behave.
But one of the biological children confided in a family friend about the alleged abuse.
The couple do not have custody of any of their children; parental rights have been terminated with two adoptive children and one biological child while they have visitation rights with the other two children, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.