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Describing the case as “one of the most challenging I’ve had in almost 32 years as a judge,” Frederick H. Weisberg announced Wednesday his much-awaited verdict in the Banita Jacks murder trial: guilty.
The D.C. Superior Court judge convicted Jacks on 11 of the 12 counts she faced: four counts of felony murder, four of cruelty to children, and three of first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of her three youngest girls, Tatianna Jacks, 11, N’Kiah Fogle, 6, and Aja Fogle, 5.
The judge acquitted Jacks only of premeditated murder in the killing of her oldest daughter, Brittany, who was 16.
Over the course of two hours, Weisberg drew heavily on the evidence given by medical examiners and forensic experts, noting that their findings “were consistent that all four deaths were homicide.”
But in Brittany’s case, on the matter of premeditation, Weisberg cited the difficulty in determining the cause of death, saying it remained unclear whether Brittany was stabbed by Jacks or whether she had stabbed herself. Given the extent to which Jacks “tortured [Brittany] emotionally and physically,” he said, she could have committed suicide.
Weisberg said Jacks had proved herself conscious of guilt, in both word and conduct: She intentionally obstructed law enforcement officials when they came to her house and discovered the bodies in January of last year. She intentionally created the impression that the house had been abandoned; she stopped using the front door and allowed the mail to pile up.
Jacks sat expressionless as the verdict was delivered. In fact, it was Weisberg who sat with his head in his hands as the crowd filed out of the courtroom. Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Sines described the case as “very sad.”
Defense attorney Peter Krauthamer reiterated that he had not pursued an insanity defense at Jacks’s insistence, but declined to comment on why he decided to make a last-minute appeal on the insanity issue yesterday.
“I feel bad for Miss Jacks,” he said. “She is looking at life in jail.”
Krauthamer said he plans to appeal.
Sentencing has been set for Oct. 16.