A former college football player was sentenced Thursday to 11 years in state prison for strangling his mother’s boyfriend in a Santa Monica apartment.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bernie La Forteza imposed the maximum term on Janzen Jackson, 26, who was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for Frank Herrera’s September 2013 killing.
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“The defendant brutally killed Mr. Herrera using three separate ligatures,” the judge said, adding that Jackson dragged Herrera’s body to the victim’s car and drove it to South Los Angeles, leaving the remains inside to decompose. “Here the defendant committed a very heinous act in killing the victim through strangulation.”
Shortly before being sentenced, Jackson said, “I am deeply sorry for what has happened … It was a tragedy that someone lost his life.”
Jackson — who played college football for the University of Tennessee and McNeese State University before going on to play for the Toronto Argonauts – – maintained that the killing happened in self-defense.
“I was in a fight for my life,” Jackson told the judge.
Jurors acquitted Jackson of the more serious charge of second-degree murder.
Deputy District Attorney Richard Quinones told the judge, “This was, in the People’s opinion, not a voluntary manslaughter, although that’s what he was ultimately (found) guilty of.”
The prosecution felt that the “only appropriate sentence” for Jackson was the maximum 11-year sentence, Quinones said.
The victim’s mother, Rosa Melgar, told the judge that she has been sentenced to a life remembering “what he (the defendant) did to my son.”
“I believe greatly in God and that it’ll be God that (will) bring justice to him,” she said.
The victim’s sister-in-law, Delilah Herrera, called for the judge to impose the maximum punishment on Jackson, saying that there have to be consequences for his actions.
“This was the uncle that everybody adored and loved,” she said.
The defendant’s mother, who had been involved in a seven-year relationship with Herrera, called it a “terrible, unfortunate tragedy that took place.”
“My family was ripped apart by this unfortunate ordeal,” Tesra Jackson told the judge, before speaking directly to her son and telling him, “I love you and I will always be there for you.”
Deputy Public Defender Daryne Nicole asked the judge to sentence Jackson to probation, arguing that it was an unusual case involving someone who had no prior criminal record.
“What happened here happened because of actions Mr. Herrera put in motion,” the defense attorney said, telling the judge that a verbal argument between the two turned into a fight.
Jackson’s attorney said her client had the “brain of a 22-year-old football player who’s been knocked around since he was 5 years old,” noting that he had been sent to Patton State Hospital after being declared mentally incompetent to stand trial and that he is willing to seek mental health treatment.
She said evidence presented during the trial showed that Jackson moved the victim’s body because he “panicked and was extremely fearful.”
In denying the defense’s request for probation, the judge noted that Jackson “tied three different ligatures around the victim’s neck,” then used blankets and rugs to conceal the body and hide the corpse in the victim’s car.
Herrera, 43, was found dead three days later inside the vehicle, which had been abandoned in South Los Angeles near the home of one of Jackson’s relatives.
–City News Service
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