Family and Friends Protest Sentencing in Shootout

December 1, 2011 by Julie Montanaro

A sentence handed down in a deadly gang shootout brought protestors to the Leon County courthouse lawn today.

Family and friends of Earl Jackson say his maximum sentence on minor charges is out of line.

They carried signs demanding "Justice for Jackson." Earl Jackson. A judge recently sentenced him to 20 years in prison for his role in a shootout at the Circle K that cost an innocent bystander his life.

"By being out here tonight, today it's showing that we're not giving up on Earl or the kids to come who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time," Earl Jackson, Sr. said as he held a sign reading "Free Earl."

Jackson was one of five men arrested in the shootout. At trial he was found not guilty of the more serious charges of felony murder, attempted murder and discharging a firearm.

He was found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon and possesion of a firearm by a delinquent.

Judge Josefina Tamayo sentenced him to the maximum for each for a total of 20 years behind bars.

The rub, protestors say, is the very next day, Tamayo sentenced co-defendant Darvaunta Vaughn to just eight years on similar charges.

"I think all attorneys can accept that there are going to be harsh rulings. There wouldn't be a protest if there was a harsh ruling so long as it's all consistent and here we just don't have the consistency," said Jackson's attorney Craig Brown.

"i really thought he was going to come home you know with them giving him 20 years, they might as well have just charged him with everything, " said Jackson's cousin Shauntell Smith.

More than a dozen family and friends protested in front of the courthouse Thursday.

Jackson's lawyer is requesting a hearing to address what he calls a sentencing error.

The judge had no comment and neither did the family of Curtis Brown ... the innocent bystander killed in the crossfire that night.

We did talk to prosecutor John Hutchins. He said he had no comment on the protest, but pointed out Vaughn took responsibility for his actions that night and agreed to testify for the state at trial.

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