Commonwealth Attorney Mark Blankenship reinforced his belief Thursday that his office’s handling of the wanton endangerment case involving Murray State University basketball player Zaveral “Zay” Jackson has been consistent with cases involving other MSU students.
That, however, did not persuade Judge Craig Clymer from throwing out Jackson’s plea agreement. Clymer, who serves as McCracken Circuit Court judge and was appointed special judge for the case, ordered Jackson’s pre-trial diversion changed to include at least one year in jail and have the felony case staying on his permanent record. Diversions result in removal from a person’s record after the appointed time has passed.
Jackson’s original agreement called for a 30-day jail sentence of which part has already been served.
“It became very clear that (Clymer) felt the punishment didn’t fit the crime,” Blankenship said of the case in which Jackson is alleged to have struck two people in the parking lot of the Murray Walmart following an altercation in September. “It is obvious that he has viewed the video (from a surveillance camera) several times, and from the amount of time one of the victims was allegedly on top of the hood of the car, he came to the conclusion that, even if it was impulsive, Jackson should’ve been able to have stopped the car after a while.
“He said that if Jackson went to talk to young people (and show the video as part of community service), and they were to ask what happened that when he told them he only served 30 days that they would think it was pretty minor.
“We didn’t just throw this together, though. I know what a felony means to a young person, how it can affect getting a job and other things they will face once on their own. I’m not ashamed of that either.”
Blankenship said he did suspect that it is possible Clymer felt his (Blankenship’s) ties to MSU (he is an alum) may have influenced him to opt for a lenient sentence, but Blankenship denied that. Earlier, Calloway Circuit Judge Dennis Foust had recused himself from the case, because of concern his many dealings with people with MSU ties could be seen as causing a bias in how he handled the case.
Blankenship also said Clymer did indicate that Jackson could be granted shock probation (early release from jail), but there was no word on when that could happen. Jackson and his attorney, Gary Haverstock, now have until Nov. 21 to consider Clymer’s ruling. If they choose to reject the new stipulations, the case will be cleared to continue moving toward a jury trial.
Individuals facing charges are innocent until proven guilty.