MARIETTA - The last bit of jury selection and opening statements are expected today in a trial that started Monday against a Belpre parent implicated in the death of her 2-year-old daughter after an investigation into an October 2010 fire.
Crystal Dillon, 24, and James Jackson II, 50, of 602 Florence St., Belpre, were each indicted in April on one third-degree felony count of involuntary manslaughter, a third-degree felony count of endangering children and a misdemeanor charge of endangering children related to the death of their 2-year-old daughter Bianca Jackson.
Prosecutors allege the girl and her 4-year-old brother were playing unsupervised in a vacant building connected to their Sixth Street residence when a fire broke out. The boy escaped the fire, but the girl was later found dead from smoke inhalation.
Photo by Brad Bauer
Accused of failing to watch her children which led to one being killed last October in a house fire, Crystal Dillon, 24, listens Monday during jury selection in Washington County Common Pleas Court.
Only Dillon is standing trial this week. The cases against the couple were originally set to be tried together, but Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings asked for the cases to be severed. A new trial date for Jackson had not been set as of Monday.
"It allows me to present some evidence that I might not have been able to otherwise," Rings said during a break from jury selection on Monday.
He declined to elaborate on what that evidence might be. Police, fire marshals and prosecutors have remained tight-lipped about the case since the start of their investigation.
The last bit of jury selection and opening statements are expected today in a Marietta trial involving Crystal Dillon, 24, of Belpre, who was implicated in the death of her 2-year-old daughter.
Bianca Jackson, 2, died in the October 2010 fire.
Three panels of potential jurors-about 120 people-were called to be a part of the jury selection process. A typical case generally has about 40 potential jurors called. Court officials said it was necessary to call more because of the emotional nature of the case.
Washington County Public Defender Ray Smith said he was disappointed charges were ever filed in the case. He said the parents have suffered enough and should be left to grieve.
"If this is a crime, there are a lot of criminals out there," he said. "This is something that could happen to anyone."
Assistant Washington County Public Defender Shawna Landaker addressed a panel of potential jurors Monday afternoon, asking them if they've ever had an experience with children getting lost or sneaking off, how much attention they payed to the Casey Anthony trial earlier this year and if they've ever sat on a jury before.
Landaker also questioned jurors if they could remain open-minded if Dillon does not testify.
"How do you feel if she doesn't testify?" Landaker asked. "I'm telling you right now she's not taking the stand. She's not going to talk about the death of her daughter. She's plead not guilty and maybe that's all she's going to say. Does that bother you?"
Several jurors addressed the question.
"My daughter is 6, and I understand and I wouldn't be able to talk about it," a female panelist replied. "It would be difficult to talk about."
"I understand that's the law and that's her choice," another potential juror said.
Throughout the day Dillon sat sandwiched between her public defenders, rarely whispering to one of them. She seemed interested in jurors' responses, taking notes on a yellow legal pad.
Jackson sat in the rear of the courtroom but did not comment or interact with Dillon during the proceedings. Both are free on bond.
Jury selection is set to resume at 9 a.m. today before Washington County Common Pleas Judge Ed Lane. Testimony is expected to continue through Friday.
Dillon and Jackson each face up to 10 1/2 years in prison and $21,000 in fines if convicted of the charges.