FAYETTEVILLE — A woman with a history of alcohol-related arrests — including killing a worker in a construction zone — has been placed in a court-ordered, five-year diversion program.
In criminal law, a defendant is diverted out of the criminal justice system rather than being incarcerated. Criminal charges are typically dropped when a defendant successfully completes a diversion program. The defendant therefore avoids the stigma of a criminal conviction. Diversion programs are usually only available to defendants charged with misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies involving drugs or alcohol.
The move means Jo Lynn Jackson will be treated for mental illness rather than prosecuted. Her current charges include filing a false police report, reckless burning, public intoxication and failure to appear.
She was arrested in the summer of 2015 for reckless burning, a felony; and public intoxication after police said she set a fire in her driveway and the fire spread and threatened nearby apartments.
Jackson, 57, then claimed a Washington County jailer sexually assaulted her in a shower in July 2015. Investigators said videos from the cell block showed the jailer never went into the shower with Jackson. The jailer denied any wrongdoing and passed a lie detector test.
Jackson also missed a scheduled mental examination related to the case, but later attended a rescheduled examination, according to court filings.
The diversion order, signed by Washington County Circuit Judge Joanna Taylor on Wednesday, says two psychologists determined Jackson could present a defense of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect and she’s now hospitalized in a long-term care facility in Durant, Okla.
Mieka Hatcher, assistant prosecutor, said cases are typically dismissed when a defendant is found mentally unfit to proceed. The agreement will allow prosecutors to keep some measure of control over the case while Jackson receives treatment.
“This is a way of holding and posturing the case so we can continue monitoring her behavior and actions and ensure she’s following through with the treatment plan,” Hatcher said. “If she’s not, this case can be re-opened.”
Taylor ordered Jackson to continue treatment established by her mental health care providers and submit to a mental health care evaluation during the period of diversion if prosecutors desire. Jackson was also ordered to cooperate with her doctors on physical ailments including low blood pressure and blood clots in her legs.
The agreement can be canceled if Jackson commits any crimes in the next five years. The charges will be dismissed in October 2022 if she completes the requirements of the agreement.
Jackson was arrested three times on charges of driving while intoxicated in less than three months in 2014 in Fayetteville, twice while she was free on bond.
Jackson was arrested at a Sonic Drive-In after driving her vehicle into a trash can. Police found a wine bottle in her car. She was arrested a second time after driving her vehicle into several poles and shopping carts in a Walmart parking lot. She was arrested 14 days later when an off-duty police officer saw her driving erratically on North College Avenue. Police said she was intoxicated.
Jackson served one year in jail, which was the maximum sentence allowed, for all three DWI convictions.
Jackson killed a Fayetteville city worker, Jackie Luper of West Fork, in September 2011. She drove into a city construction zone in front of Butterfield Trail Village on Joyce Boulevard, hitting Luper and injuring two other workers.
She pleaded guilty in 2012 to misdemeanor negligent homicide in Luper’s death. She served six months in the Washington County Detention Center and was given probation for one year.
In November 2015, Johnson police issued a warrant for Jackson’s arrest. Police said they were looking for Jackson because she didn’t pay a taxi fare. Jackson didn’t appear in court as ordered, according to police. Both of those charges were misdemeanors.
Ron Wood can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWARDW.
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