Dorchester man sentenced to life in 2013 murder
The night her youngest son was murdered in 2013, Valerie Jackson said she watched a news report about a shooting at Dudley Square Station and said a prayer.
“When I heard that crime at Dudley, I said, ‘God bless that woman’s son.’ . . . I always do that when I hear a senseless crime like that,” Jackson said Wednesday in Suffolk Superior Court.
Within hours, Jackson, 58, said she learned the man for whom she offered blessings was not a stranger but her 26-year-old son, Courtney. He had been shot twice as he tried to board a bus around 9:30 p.m. Feb. 28, 2013, prosecutors said.
“I didn’t want to hear it . . . I was in denial, like, ‘You’re wrong. You’re wrong,’ ” Valerie Jackson recalled Wednesday at the sentencing for one of her son’s killers.
She said she did not believe her son was dead until she saw his body at Boston Medical Center.
“I flipped out,” Jackson told Judge Richard Welch. “I wouldn’t let him go. I lost my mind. . . . It was the [worst] thing in my life.”
Jamel Bannister, 24, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the fatal shooting. A jury convicted the Dorchester resident Tuesday of second-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm. Defense attorney John Tardif said Bannister maintains his innocence and had only a tenuous connection to Courtney Jackson. They were in a jailhouse fight in 2008, he said.
Bannister will be eligible for parole after serving 15 years in prison, Welch ruled. He has already been locked up for more than two years awaiting trial.
Bannister’s codefendant, Brian Cooper, 27, of Mattapan, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder earlier this month and is set to be sentenced May 5. Cooper fired the shots that killed Jackson, according to court testimony.
Jackson’s girlfriend, Dominika Taylor, said she spoke to Courtney Jackson by phone while he was waiting for the bus at Dudley Square Station. Taylor, who was at home with her daughter, Zalesha, told Jackson the Route 28 bus would arrive in three minutes.
“Three short minutes,” Taylor, 28, said. “I just want to show how short an amount of time something can be taken away. [The bus] was coming in three minutes.”
After ending the call, Taylor said she looked at her Twitter feed and learned there had been a shooting at the Roxbury bus depot.
“I call him immediately and he doesn’t answer,” Taylor said. “I just knew it was him.”
Prosecutors said Cooper and Bannister approached Jackson and started arguing. He was shot twice and fell into the doorway of the bus he was trying to board.
MBTA surveillance cameras recorded the encounter, and the footage was shown to the jury. At trial, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney David Fredette said the surveillance video shows Bannister lifting something out of his pocket as Cooper approached Jackson. Cooper fired before Bannister could.
Bannister “just couldn’t get a shot off,” Fredette said during opening statements.
Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley credited prosecutors and police for using the video evidence to build their case.
“There’s a saying that the truth always comes out, but the truth of this case would have been much harder to reveal without the tremendous assistance of the MBTA public safety cameras that captured Mr. Jackson’s killers,” Conley said in a statement.
Bannister apologized before Welch imposed the life sentence mandated by law. Tardif said in an interview that Bannister plans to appeal, arguing that information introduced at trial about gang connections Bannister had between the ages of 10 and 14 was “irretrievably prejudicial.”
Tardif said Jackson’s killing was not gang related.
“I’m sorry for what happened. I wish it never happened, but I couldn’t stop another man’s actions,” Bannister said. “I’m very sorry for your loss. It doesn’t just hurt your family. It hurts my family as well. I’m sorry.”
After Bannister was led away from the courtroom, Valerie Jackson turned around and hugged Taylor and others. Taylor is raising Courtney Jackson’s child, a 1-year-old girl also named Courtney.
“We did it,” Valerie Jackson said over and over. “We did it.”