If Jamarcus Jackson had been locked up instead of free on probation at the time he shot and killed DeShaun Greer in a downtown Johnson City parking lot, Greer wouldn’t have died that night.
“Mr. Jackson is a dangerous person. There has to be consequences here. He killed another human being,” said Criminal Court Judge Stacy Street during the sentencing hearing Tuesday.
Jackson, originally charged with first-degree murder for the March 23, 2014, shooting death of Greer in the Cherry Street parking lot, was convicted in November of second-degree murder, indicating the jury rejected the prosecution’s argument for premeditated murder as well as the defense’s argument for self-defense.
In assessing Jackson for sentencing, Street found little in the man’s background to support any mitigation of the sentence.
Jackson’s range of sentencing was 25 to 40 years, but five prior felonies, as well as a juvenile conviction that would be an adult felony, weighed strongly against him as did his inability to successfully complete probation on convictions prior to the murder. In addition to the 40 years, Street also sentenced Jackson to eight additional years in prison for violating his probation on several prior convictions.
Attorneys respond to sentencing:
And while Greer’s family expressed sighs of relief at the judge’s harsh sentence, their pain and anguish for losing a son was clearly evident. DeShaun was a few months shy of graduating from King College, and he’d planned to enter the Marines after school. But the events of March 23, 2014 stopped those dreams.
“It’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” said Greer’s father, Stanley Greer. “It’s a struggle every day … something that you have shaped and molded from a baby to do the right thing … not to tote a weapon, fight with your fist and live to fight another day. It just don’t work that way anymore. There’s too many cowards in this world.”
Kimberly Greer, DeShaun Greer’s stepmother, said she helped raise him from a young child and the pain of his being gone has devastated her family.
“It’s kind of ruined everyone,” she said. Her older daughter has had medical issues, “his brother, Jamison, is so stressed out he couldn’t be here today. We have two younger girls … they miss their big brother, their role model. They’re afraid to get close to anyone for fear of loss.”
DeShaun Greer’s mother, Amelia Fritz, said her son was caring and giving to others.
“You have taken away everything … one of my children,” Fritz said as she locked her gaze on Jackson. “I will never hear DeShaun’s laughter and singing, the feel of his arms around (me) giving me a hug or hearing him run around the house with his big silly kid laugh. I will never hear, ‘I love you mama,’ or ‘I’ll be back in a flash.’ ”
Former King College basketball teammate J.T. Blair testified that he sees reminders of Greer all over Bristol and still deals with the grief of his friend’s death. Greer had such an impact on the King community that the basketball team created an award — the Deshaun Greer Award — in his honor.
“The things that would require someone to win it are loyalty, encouragement, attitude. And it’s so fitting. I think back to our relationship and how he was on campus and within our team,” Blair said. It’s one way to keep Greer’s memory alive at King College, he said.
The shooting in the early morning hours outside the Battery, which no longer operates in the Cherry Street building it occupied at the time, left DeShaun Greer dead and his brother Jamison Greer and two bystanders injured. Witnesses in the case included Amanda Chappell, the woman Jackson went to The Battery with that night, two bouncers — John Calandros and James Phillips — and John Lawson, who didn’t work there at the time but later was employed as a DJ.
Calandros testified he broke up a fight between Jackson and another person — who was not involved in the later altercation — earlier in the evening. Later, he and another bouncer, James Phillips, broke up a fight between Jackson and DeShaun Greer. That’s when Jackson went up to Phillips and punched him, apparently for no reason.
Jackson would later explain he punched Phillips because Phillips had Jackson’s cousin, Michael Rowe, down on the ground and he was only acting in defense of his relative.
Phillips later testified that by the time he got up from the floor, Jackson had left, the lights were on and the Battery staff was getting everyone out the door.
Outside, the crowd lingered but Calandros said the Greer brothers were calmed down and walking away toward the parking lot. But the men said Jackson returned and when DeShaun Greer saw Jackson, he went toward him. Scott said during opening statements that Greer charged at Jackson and Jackson acted in self defense.
Phillips testified that Greer ran toward Jackson, while Calandros denied Greer ran toward Jackson.
Jackson “stopped and was staring at Mr. Greer,” Calandros testified. “Mr. Greer turned around and walked toward him, then (Jackson) pulled his firearm and opened fire.”
Chappell testified that Jackson and she were bumped by Jamison Greer, which is what caused the altercation between the two. As they were leaving the club, Chappell said Jackson took off ahead of her on his way to the car and wouldn’t slow down.
“He was at my car even before I got down there,” so she used her wireless key fob to unlock the vehicle. “He was at the passenger’s side,” and began rummaging in the car when she did unlock it. “He said, ‘Where’s my gun?’” she testified. “I said, ‘What do you want me to do?’ He said I could leave if I wanted to. I said ‘I’m not going to leave you here.’”
Chappell said Jackson put the gun in his pants and went back toward the Battery. In a few minutes, Chappell said she heard gunshots and ran back to the scene. By that time, DeShaun Greer had been killed and several people had Jackson down on the ground. After realizing Jackson was subdued by bystanders, Chappell said she left.
Jackson didn’t take the stand in front of the jury, but his testimony after jurors left the courtroom is in the record, preserved for the appeal in his case. Defense attorney Gene Scott made the offer of proof after closing arguments were over and the jury had the case. Jackson opted not to testify in the trial because Street was going to let prosecutors bring in a prior robbery conviction. The defense didn’t want that prejudicial information presented to the jury. Prosecutors objected to the after-the-fact testimony, but Street allowed it to preserve the record.
What the jury didn’t hear was Jackson’s account of taking a .40-caliber handgun into the Battery the night of the shooting.
Scott said he wanted Jackson’s testimony preserved for appellate purposes so if a higher court decides Street was wrong about allowing the robbery conviction to come in they can also look at Jackson’s testimony to determine if the jury would have reached a different verdict had Street’s ruling been different.
Jackson’s account of what happened was that he had a handgun in the waistband of his pants when Chappell picked him up that night.
She had testified Jackson put the gun in the floorboard, but he said that didn’t happen. Instead, he said he removed it from his waistband and laid it on his lap until they arrived at the bar. Jackson said he took the gun inside and was never checked by anyone to see if he had a weapon. During the evening, Jackson said he and Chappell mingled around the bar visiting with others there, including his cousin, Michael “Tito” Rowe.
While on the dance floor talking to two people, Jackson said he was pushed from behind. He turned around to see Jamison Greer talking to him, but Jackson couldn’t hear what Greer was saying. He said Chappell told him that they should leave, but then fights began to break out. Jackson said he saw a man — later identified as Phillips, the bouncer — on Rowe, so Jackson punched Phillips and helped Rowe up and they walked out.
Jackson said they stood outside talking for a few minutes, Chappell by his side, and Rowe asked if Jackson had any marijuana. Jackson said he did and went to get it from the car. Jackson said it wasn’t a gun he was going to retrieve, but marijuana for his cousin.
Chappell was later called as a rebuttal witness to Jackson and she was adamant about the gun being in her floorboard and Jackson yelling, ‘Where’s my gun?’ when he went back to her car. Jackson testified that when he got back down to the Battery, people were everywhere and he couldn’t find Rowe.
He said the crowd started yelling, ‘There he is, go get him.” He realized they were talking about him, then looked up to see DeShaun Greer start running toward him. Jackson said he pulled out the gun.
“I knew I was going to get hurt,” Jackson said. “When he was coming I knew something was going to happen. I knew he was going to hurt me.” Jackson said he fired a warning shot, expecting Greer to stop, but Greer kept coming toward him and he fired twice more.
No witness in the trial testified about a warning shot.
Jackson said Jamison Greer tackled him and they struggled over the gun and Jamison Greer ended up getting shot in the back on his shoulder several times. He said someone pulled Jamison Greer off him, but then he was tackled by several other people and held there until police arrived.
At the hearing Tuesday, Street said he didn’t believe a single word of Jackson’s claims.