Jury deliberations begin in Zaire Jackson’s murder trial

Defense attorney Steven Lember (left) and defendant Zaire Jackson listen to testimony at Jackson’s murder trial in Mercer County Superior Court. (GREGG SLABODA — The Trentonian)

Defense attorney Steven Lember (left) and defendant Zaire Jackson listen to testimony at Jackson’s murder trial in Mercer County Superior Court. (GREGG SLABODA — The Trentonian)

The fate of alleged killer Zaire Jackson hangs in the balance as a jury of his peers deliberates on whether he is guilty or not guilty of murder.

Jackson, 22, of Trenton, has been charged with murder, unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose on allegations he knowingly procured a handgun without a permit and used it to kill an acquaintance who had disrespected him.

The victim of the slaying, 22-year-old Irvin “Swirv” Jackson, was shot in the head and killed in broad daylight at 1:59 p.m. Monday, April 9, 2012, on Moses Alley near North Hermitage Avenue in Trenton. Zaire Jackson, who was not related to the victim, was 17 years old when the murder occurred.

In the criminal trial, all 12 jurors must be unanimously and firmly convinced beyond a reasonable doubt of Jackson’s guilt on each charge to convict him on all counts. Likewise, all 12 jurors must unanimously have reasonable doubt about the defendant’s guilt to acquit him.

In closing arguments Tuesday morning, Jackson’s pool attorney Steven Lember asked the jurors to return a verdict of not guilty on all three counts, saying his client had no motive to murder the victim and that the state’s case is “full of holes” that introduce reasonable doubt into the equation.

Lember said the state has relied upon two “so-called eyewitnesses” in its prosecution of Jackson — testimony from criminal defendants Casey Corker and Robert Patterson — and said they are “two of the least reliable” witnesses who could ever be called to testify in a court of law.

“Both of them say initially they didn’t see the shooting,” Lember said of Corker and Patterson, adding both of them later changed their tune after they got arrested. Surveillance footage at the intersection of North Hermitage Avenue and Moses Alley “simply doesn’t support what these eyewitnesses say occurred,” Lember said of the two witnesses who had identified Jackson as the killer. “They made it up.”

“Reputation, respect and revenge: That is what this case is about,” Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Skylar Weissman said in his closing arguments Tuesday.

Zaire Jackson, also known as “Cory” and “Philly,” had “dealt drugs to hustle,” Weissman said. “He had a reputation to uphold.”

Weissman said the defendant, days after the murder, told police in an interview that he was arguing with Irvin Jackson on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012. The assistant prosecutor accused the defendant of being armed and “walking around with a weapon” on that “holiday day.”

Later that day inside a city home, a man known as “Techs” placed a gun to Zaire Jackson’s head, and Jackson believed Irvin Jackson was responsible for Techs being at the house, Weissman said.

Then when Zaire Jackson was relaxing inside another Trenton house that was shot up later that evening — a shooting that almost struck him in the eye — the defendant believed Irvin Jackson was one of the individuals responsible for that shooting, Weismann said.

“This is all about respect, all about reputation,” he said. “He has to show he’s this tough guy, that he makes money.”

Following an eventful Easter Sunday, cellphone records show Zaire Jackson’s mobile device went “silent” from 12:30 p.m. to 2:03 p.m. on Monday, April 9, 2012, and further show he fled into Bucks County, Pennsylvania, following the 1:59 p.m. slaying, Weissman said, adding, “Phone records don’t lie, ladies and gentlemen.”

The jurors began deliberating Tuesday afternoon following closing arguments and jury instructions. The jurors, however, did not reach a verdict on Tuesday, prompting Superior Court Judge Andrew Smithson to dismiss the jurors for the day and instruct them to continue their backroom deliberations at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

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