Memphis case draws national attention: Key players speak out about local high profile case

April 7, 2011

The murder of a parent, also known as parricide, comprises less than two percent of homicides in the United States. A very small number of these cases involved daughters ages 18 and under, according to CBS News.

Because of its rarity, cases involving matricide gain a significant amount of media coverage. 

A year after Memphis teenager Noura Jackson was found guilty in the stabbing death of her mother, Jennifer Jackson, 39, CBS’s 
48 Hours Mystery produced a special titled My Mother’s Murder, detailing the events of the case. Jackson, 18, was convicted in February 2009 of stabbing her mother over 50 times on June 5, 2005. 

The television show 
48 Hours follows criminal court cases as they unfold at the crime scene and in the courtroom. 

Judge Chris Craft, lead prosecutor Amy Weirich, lead defense attorney Valerie Corder, family friends and Noura Jackson herself all agreed to take part in filming. 

Craft worked closely with the 
48 Hours producers on the show. However, he said that while the show presented itself as a documentary on the case, it was for entertainment purposes and that a significant amount of relevant information was not included. 

“They have to make it to where you don’t know what the outcome is until the last minute of the show because it’s called ‘48 Hours 
Mystery,’” he said. “They didn’t show all of (the important evidence) because if they did then you’d figure out that she was going to be convicted. Instead, they showed the few people who said ‘I just don’t see how a little girl could do this.’”

Many people close to the case were upset at how the show presented the facts of the case and that it left doubt in many of the viewers’ minds as to Jackson’s guilt. 

“I got a lot of emails from people who had seen the show and several of the jurors called me upset and said ‘Why didn’t they show all the other stuff,’ and I said ‘Well, it’s 38 minutes and they have to let the outcome be uncertain,’” Craft said. “There’s not a show that has police pulling people over and giving them speeding tickets because that’s boring. In a trial it’s the same way. You don’t have the crime scene guy going through (every single piece of evidence) because nobody wants to watch it. So that‘s the problem; it’s not a real summary of the evidence it’s just things that are emotional.” 

Weirich agreed. 

“Obviously their focus is entertainment,” she said. “It’s more comparable to historical fiction writing. They are relaying the facts as they see them, but also keeping in mind who their audience is and who it is they are appealing to.”

Now district attorney general for Shelby County, Tennessee, Weirich had no hesitation in participating in the TV show, although, she chose not to watch it. 

“I guess (I did the show) to be a voice for Jennifer (the victim), if nothing else,” Weirich said. “To make sure that the victim wasn’t forgotten.”

Tim Helldorfer, a former homicide detective for the Memphis Police Department, who now works for the district attorney’s office, was one of the investigators on the case. He also recognized that the show left out many facts to maintain the 'mystery' element of the program.

“They presented enough of a tease to leave you hanging, and I realize that’s what they want, they want a mystery,” he said. 

This is not Helldorfer’s first time on a national television show. While with the Memphis Police Department, he was featured on several episodes of A&E’s 
The First 48. Helldorfer said he learned about taking better crime scene video from his experiences.

“When the First 48 showed up in Memphis they were explaining how they take pictures,” he said. “I learned a lot from them that I didn’t know beforehand. The video that I filmed at the Jackson home, in hindsight I would have done a better job. I went too quick and didn’t take an outside pan. I could have dispelled a lot of issues that they brought up had I of taken a better video.”

Danya Bacchus, a reporter for WREG-TV in Memphis, covered the Jackson trial and saw the 
48 Hours special. She noticed differences in the national coverage, as opposed to her own local coverage. 

“They had more time,” she said. “We’re just there in the courtroom, but they were able to take more time in getting the extra interviews from people, like going to interview Noura Jackson. These are things that we weren’t able to do with the time that we had covering the case.

 Watch videos of some of the key players involved with the case. 

Story by Lauren Lee

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