Jackson trial: State rests case, defense calls friend, former Eagle Scout leader to testify

On day five of the trial of former UI student Alexander Jackson, the defense made a motion — which was denied — for a judgment of acquittal while the jury was not present.

Sabine Martin, Managing News Editor

Lawyers of former University of Iowa student Alexander Jackson, who faces three counts of first-degree murder for the killings of his parents and sister in June 2021, built their case Friday on his character as a former Eagle Scout and friend. 

The trial in the Linn County Courtroom is nearing completion with closings and deliberations on either Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, Lars Anderson, Sixth Judicial District chief judge, said. 

Alexander Jackson, 22, is accused of the fatal shootings with a .22 rifle of his father, Jan Jackson, 61; mother, Melissa Jackson, 68; and sister, who was also a UI student, Sabrina Jackson, 19, on June 15, 2021, in their Cedar Rapids residence. 

Alexander Jackson told police an intruder wearing black clothes and green shoes entered their home and killed his family members. He also had a gunshot injury in his foot.   

The state rested its case Friday, and the defense brought Alexander Jackson’s friend, mentor, and Cedar Rapids investigators to the stand. 

Levi Gritton, Alexander Jackson’s former Eagle Scout leader and UI Hospitals and Clinics employee, told the jury on Friday that he met the defendant in 2014.

Alexander Jackson had a total of 34 merit badges while in Eagle Scouts, including one for rifle shooting. Gritton said the program uses .22 rifles, and scouts learn how to care for and use the gun. He added Alexander Jackson was proficient in rifle shooting.  

Gritton said Alexander Jackson never got in a fight with anyone or caused trouble in Eagle Scouts. 

“He was a great kid. I could count on him in any situation,” Gritton said in his testimony. “I would always rely on him to take on more gear and take more of a leadership position.” 

Prosecutors asked Gritton if he thinks people can change over time because years went by since he had seen Alexander Jackson. 

He agreed it is safe to say people can change. 

The defense counsel also invited one of Alexander Jackson’s close friends to testify on the stand. 

Ryan Burrack, 21, a University of Northern Iowa student, said he has known “Alex” for eight years since they met at Harding Middle School in Cedar Rapids. 

He said Alexander Jackson never complained about having to spend time with his family and didn’t have a hot temper or was violent. 

While Burrack was unsure of the details, the defense and prosecution also asked him if he, Alexander Jackson, and other friends played the videogame Halo until around 11 p.m. on June 14, 2021 — the night before the killings. 

Judge Anderson rejects motion for a judgment of acquittal

During one of the recesses on Friday — day five of the trial — the defense made a motion for a judgment of acquittal while the jury was not present. The defense said the prosecution does not have enough evidence to support that Alexander Jackson is guilty. 

In response, the prosecution said there is sufficient evidence for a guilty verdict. Judge Anderson denied the defense’s motion. 

The trial will resume on Monday in the Linn County Courthouse. 

Alejandro Rojas and Cooper Worth contributed to this report.