The Commission on Capital Cases updates this information regularly. This information; however, is subject to change and may not reflect the latest status of an inmate’s case and should not be relied upon for statistical or legal purposes.
JACKSON, Michael James (W/M)
Forth Judicial Circuit, Duval County Case # 2005-10263 CF AES
Sentencing Judge: The Honorable Michael R. Weatherby
Attorney, Trial: Richard R. Kuritz – Registry
Attorney, Direct Appeal: Richard R. Kuritz – Registry
Attorney, Collateral Appeals: Christopher Anderson, Esquire – Registry
Date of Offense: 07/08/05
Date of Sentence: 08/29/07
Circumstances of Offense:
Michael James Jackson and codefendants Tiffany Ann Cole, Bruce Kent Nixon, and Alan Lyndell Wade were convicted for the robbery, kidnapping, and first-degree murder of James and Carol Sumner on July 8, 2005.
The group’s plan to rob the couple originated from codefendant Tiffany Ann Cole’s information, which was gained from a prior relationship with the Sumners. The Sumners had been a neighbor of Cole’s, and had sold her a vehicle in the past. Cole and Jackson had a personal relationship and traveled together often. In June of 2005, they came to Florida to visit codefendant Alan Wade. During this visit, the Sumners let Cole and Jackson stay with them in Jacksonville. While visiting, Jackson noticed that the Sumners were frail and easy targets. The Sumners were in their early sixties, but dependant on various prescriptions to get by day-to-day. Jackson then informed Wade that the Sumners were in a wealthy financial position due to the sale of their South Carolina home and several television sets. They also had at least $90,000 in a bank account because of the sales.
After visiting, Jackson, Wade, and Cole began developing a plan to rob the Sumners. Wade invited his best friend Bruce Nixon to join the scheme. Jackson and Cole were 23 years old, and Wade and Nixon were 18 at the time of the crimes. After entering a plea agreement, Nixon testified at trial that they had all planned the robbery, but Jackson was in charge. Jackson informed the group that he would “take care” of the Sumners by injecting them with a shot of medicine to cause their deaths. In preparation for the robbery, Nixon stole several shovels, and Cole rented a Mazda from a rental agency in South Carolina to drive them to Florida.
The group arrived in Florida and began watching the Sumner’s house in secret to develop strategies and logistics for the robbery. Several days before the offense, Nixon, Jackson, and Wade dug a six-foot-deep hole in a remote area of Georgia. After leaving their shovels at the gravesite, they purchased gloves, duct tape, plastic wrap, and a “toy gun” to further prepare for the robbery. Video surveillance identified the group buying these items, and receipts were found in their motel rooms.
Finally, on the evening of July 8, 2005, Nixon and Wade approached the Sumner residence, while Cole and Jackson remained in the Mazda. (Cole and Jackson were identifiable by the Sumners) After Carol Sumner opened the door, Wade asked if he could use a telephone. Carol allowed them in, and once inside, Wade immediately ripped the telephone wire from the wall. The toy gun was used to keep the victims believing they were at “gunpoint,” and Nixon and Wade proceeded to bind them with duct tape. The foursome communicated through Nextel phones that operate as two-way handheld transceivers. The men inside informed Jackson, through the phone, that the Sumners were restrained. Jackson entered the house searching for bank statements and ATM cards. The codefendants found items such as jewelry, coins, and documents, which they also removed from the house.
Jackson continued to search the house while Nixon and Wade forced the victims into the trunk of their Lincoln Town Car. Nixon and Wade drove the vehicle to the gas station for some fuel, and then followed Jackson and Cole to the Georgia gravesite with the victims still trapped inside the trunk. After arriving, the Lincoln was driven close to the gravesite, while Cole remained in the Mazda at the edge of the road. The foursome opened the trunk, and after seeing that their bindings were not secure, Jackson ordered Nixon to tighten them.
The Sumners were then placed in a deep hole with their bindings still secure. Nixon asserted that he walked away from the open grave at this time, and left Jackson and Wade to bury them.
After filling the hole with dirt, the group threw their shovels into the trunk of the Sumner’s’ Lincoln, and left for Florida. Lastly, they attempted to remove all identify information from the Lincoln, and abandoned it in Sanderson, Florida, with the shovels still inside the trunk.
Next, after a phone call to the bank, Jackson now also knew the personal identification number for the Sumners’ ATM cards. The group then went to an ATM in Jacksonville to withdraw money from the Sumner’s account. Jackson split the money among the codefendants, and they retired to a motel for the night. Wade and Cole returned to the Sumner residence to steal a computer that they later pawned.
The next day, Nixon separated from the group and returned home to Baker County, Florida. He attended a party, and during this party he announced that he had buried people alive, killed them without assistance, and displayed a plastic bag filled with medications that belonged to the Sumners.
On July 10, 2005, Carol Sumner, a daughter of the Sumners, called the police to inform them that her parents were missing. After arriving the next day, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office found the back door unlocked, food still left on counters in preparation for a meal, and Carol’s shoe and surgical boot. The boot was necessary for Carol to walk, and it was unusual for it to remain at home if she left. Later that day, an officer spotted the Lincoln Town Car in Sanderson. Analysis of a roll of plastic wrap found in the Lincoln revealed Jackson’s fingerprints.
While the investigation continued, Jackson continued to withdraw money from the bank account. Approximately $5,000 was removed from this account. Photo surveillance showed Jackson using the ATM card several times during July 9 to July 13, and some of the photos showed a Mazda parked in the background. Jackson began to have problems accessing the account, and he contacted the bank under the guise of James Sumner. The bank said that the daily withdrawal of the account had been exceeded. Jackson then attempted to get assistance from the Jacksonvile Sheriff’s Office (JSO) to access the account. After coming up with an excuse, the officer asked to speak with his wife, and Tiffany Cole responded as such, and impersonated Carol Sumner. The JSO detective did not believe he was speaking to the Sumners, and he contacted a United States Marshal to assist in tracking the cellular telephone used by Jackson. After revealing Jackson as the caller, it was found that the telephone had been used in the area of the Sumner residence during the approximate time of the kidnapping. A rental car global positioning system determined that the Mazda was within blocks of the residence on the same night of the murders. ATM photos of the Mazda led to Tiffany Cole’s two motel rooms rented under her name in Charleston, South Carolina.
On July 14, 2005, law enforcement found Jackson, Cole, and Wade at the same motel. After obtaining a search warrant, the officers located a safe in the room and discovered identification, credit cards, a checkbook, papers, and several other items belonging to the Sumners. Cole, Jackson, and Wade were arrested, and Jackson was the first to be interrogated. Before entering the room, Jackson discarded an ATM card in a trash can. The card lacked identification, but had been issued by Sumner’s bank. Jackson told the officials that he had knowledge of the location of the bodies, but that Wade and Nixon were responsible for kidnapping and burying the victims. Jackson also claimed that the ATM card belonged to Wade’s mother, and that Wade had convinced him to make withdrawals from the account. Jackson admitted that he was at the gravesite and saw the Sumner’s being placed in the hole while they were still alive.
Bruce Nixon was arrested, and he revealed the burial location to law enforcement. The bodies were found four miles north of the Florida-Georgia border in Charlton County, Georgia, on July 16, 2005. A medical examiner testified that their deaths were caused by mechanical obstruction of the airways by dirt. They were buried alive and asphyxiated from the dirt particles smothering their airway passages. After being buried, they would have fallen unconscious and died within three to five minutes. At the gravesite, law enforcement found cigarette packs, shell casings, and empty beer cans. Both the Lincoln and the Mazda contained sand particles on the seats and floorboards.
At trial, Jackson testified that the plan was limited to robbing the Sumners and did not involve murder. He maintained that Wade and Nixon kidnapped the Sumners, and that he did not know about the kidnapping until Wade and Nixon showed him the gravesite. Jackson admitted to impersonating James Sumner during the telephone calls with the JSO. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts with a vote of eight to four.
Tiffany Ann Cole received the death sentence the First-Degree Murder, Armed Robbery, and Kidnapping that took place on July 8th, 2005.
Bruce Kent Nixon, Jr. received concurrent 45-year sentences for the Second-Degree Murder, Armed Robbery, and Kidnapping that took place on July 8th, 2005.
Alan Lyndell Wade received the death sentence the First-Degree Murder, Armed Robbery, and Kidnapping that took place on July 8th, 2005.
08/18/05 Indicted as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder
Count II: Armed Robbery
Count III: Kidnapping
05/07/07 Jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts of the indictment
05/30/07 Jury recommended death by a vote of 8-4
08/29/07 Sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree Murder – Death
Count II: Armed Robbery – 15 years
Count III: Kidnapping – Life
Florida Supreme Court – Direct Appeal
--- So.3d ----, 2009 WL 3029668
10/25/07 Appeal filed
10/15/09 Appeal denied
United States Supreme Court – Writ of Certiorari
11/03/09 Petition filed
01/19/10 Petition denied.
On 10/25/07, Jackson filed a Direct Appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. The following issues were raised: whether the trial court erred in denying Jackson’s motion for judgment of acquittal; whether the trial court erred in failing to suppress recordings of telephone calls made by Jackson while he was incarcerated in South Carolina; whether the trial court erroneously gave great weight to the jury’s recommendation, without providing an alternative means for the jury to be advised of available mitigation evidence. The Florida Supreme Court found all of these claims either harmless or without merit and affirmed the conviction and sentence on 10/15/09.
On 11/03/09, Jackson filed a petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. This petition was denied on 01/19/10.
Report Date: 10/20/09 CAR
Approved: 10/22/09 CAR
Updated: 01/27/10 CAR