EXCLUSIVE: Earnest Jackson responds after Nebraska Board of Pardons rejects murder conviction appeal

Jackson isn’t eligible for parole until 2029, but his family says the fight is far from over.
An inmate who has been in Nebraska's prison system for more than two decades was denied a pardon today by Nebraska's top officials.
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 10:46 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - It was a glimmer of hope that didn’t last long enough.

Earnest Jackson’s appeal to the Nebraska Board of Pardons for his 1999 murder conviction was denied within the first five minutes of the board hearing on Monday afternoon in Lincoln.

It was a day Earnest and his family had waited several years for.

“Frustration, sadness, disappointment,” says Tracy Jackson, Earnest’s wife following the decision by the board.

At the meeting, comprised of three members — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Attorney General Doug Peterson, and Secretary of State Bob Evnen — the board denied four appeals, Jackson’s included, and offered no explanation.

“We were hopeful but we were also realistic. We didn’t go in thinking he was going to get it, but at the same token, how it all transpired was probably the worst part.”

Earnest Jackson was tried and convicted for the 1999 murder of Omaha man Larry Perry. Following his 60-80 year sentence conviction, two other men were also arrested for the crime. When one of the men, Shalamar Cooperrider, appeared in court, he took full responsibility for the crime, saying it was in self-defense. Cooperrider was acquitted; the third man, Dante Chillous, wasn’t convicted, either.

Jackson has maintained his innocence and many across the state have been calling for his release for years, but he remains in prison. He is now 39 years old and has been serving since he was 17.

“You would think that you know, it would just be common sense to let an innocent man out of prison, especially now that we have support from some of the victim’s family,” Tracy said.

“I mostly feel for my family,” Earnest said. “I feel sad that we couldn’t, you know the outcome couldn’t be what we wanted it to be.”

Following the denial, Ricketts released the following statement to 6 News about the board’s decision:

“The underlying charge against Mr. Jackson is first-degree murder. While serving his sentence, Mr. Jackson has amassed a record of 275 separate misconduct reports. That averages out to over 12 misconduct reports for each year he has served. Additionally, there are family members of the victim who conveyed their opposition to granting a commutation. Due to these facts, the Pardons Board has unanimously determined to deny Mr. Jackson a commutation of his sentence.”

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts

6 News asked Earnest Jackson about those misconduct incidents.

“He’s right, I have had that many write-ups or misconduct reports, I cannot deny that. I own up to every last one of it,” he says.

However, Earnest says that Ricketts and the board don’t know the full story.

“All those write-ups, 90% of those write-ups happened prior to 2012,” he says. “Over the last 10 years, that number probably dropped down to two write-ups a year.”

Earnest says a write-up varies.

“From something as simple as allowing somebody else to read a book, and they get in trouble, get caught reading this book and it’s my property,” he said.

“Throughout this whole process, I always express condolences and understanding of the loss to the Perry family. My family and I, our hearts go out to them. They lost somebody and we don’t take it lightly that I’m the face of their hurt,” Earnest told 6 News.

But Earnest, Tracy, and his family wish the board would look at what they say are the facts that prove his innocence.

“We don’t like the decision, we don’t agree with the decision, but we’re going to respect the decision, right,” he added.

Jackson isn’t eligible for parole until 2029, but his family says the fight is far from over.

The Jackson family says they’re beyond grateful for every person who supports their efforts to bring Earnest home and help others who they believe have been wrongly convicted as well.