A woman sentenced to life in prison for the 1986 murder of her husband was freed Friday following work by the Illinois Innocence Project to show she had been abused by her husband and did not take part in the killing.
Gov. Pat Quinn issued an executive clemency order that freed Peggy Jo Jackson, 57, of Jefferson County from the Logan County Correctional Center.
Erica Nichols-Cook, staff attorney for wrongful convictions for the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield, said Jackson’s release was a victory for all innocent women who have suffered from serious domestic abuse.
When Jackson was sentenced in 1987, Nichols-Cook said, people viewed domestic violence differently.
“If you read the file transcript from the sentencing hearing, you can just feel the bias. The judge told her when he sentenced her to life that she killed a good provider and these children’s father,” Nichols-Cook said.
Attorneys for the Innocence Project argued that William Jackson was an abusive husband who beat and sexually assaulted his wife. “William controlled everything. He didn’t allow her to have contact with her family very often, he controlled the money and forced her to work on the farm,” Nichols-Cook said. “One of the family members who was helping out on the farm watched William spit out food he didn’t think tasted good and forced Peggy Jo to eat it.”
Peggy Jo Jackson was convicted for not trying to prevent her brother from murdering her husband. The brother later died at the Menard Correctional Center.
Nichols-Cook said the Innocence Project does not believe Jackson had anything to do with her husband’s death.
The Illinois Innocence Project worked on the Jackson case for four years. The project was supported by the Illinois Clemency Project for Battered Women.
Jackson’s case was heard before the Illinois Prisoner Review board in October. Gov. Quinn commuted her sentence to time served.
Quinn on Friday announced he had granted clemency petitions from 87 convicted people, including two from Sangamon County. One involved a charge of armed robbery dating from 1978 and the other charges of resisting a police officer and criminal trespass from 1998. The governor turned down 135 other petitions.