Hannah Michelle Bussa
When local artist Logan Anderson was approached by a colleague to do an art piece, she had never heard of the case. As she researched, a story of injustice in Nebraska unraveled.
“It is such an honor to be a part of a project of this magnitude, to give people a face to know and remember,” Anderson said.
This face is the face of Earnest Jackson.
“Earnest was 17 when he was convicted to life in prison for a crime that someone else confessed to and was acquitted of,” said Kylia Rollag, the Marketing Director of the Racial Justice Coalition of Nebraska. “He has maintained his innocence for 21 years. He was convicted based solely on his skin color and hair. He was not even at the scene.”
The jury believed the testimony of an eyewitness whose claims contradicted evidence from the autopsy. As a juvenile, he was sentenced to life in prison. He was later resentenced to 60-80 years.
Looking back at 2020, the movement to send Earnest Jackson home has grown into a national campaign. This campaign focuses on a future where Earnest Jackson is free.
“Earnest needs a pardon and commutation,” Rollag said. “Not only does he need to be sent home, but he needs all of his charges to be dropped as well. 21 years in prison is a tragedy. He can never get that time back. He deserves full exoneration.”
Jackson grew up in North Omaha, enjoying time with his family and friends. He enjoyed playing basketball. His teenage years were cut short when he was arrested for being friends with the suspects. In prison, he fought to create a better life for himself, earning a college degree and falling in love with his wife, Tracy.
“Earnest is loving, caring and kind to people,” Tracy Jackson said. “Earnest is smart, genuine and funny…to know Earnest is to love him.”
Earnest Jackson still plays basketball and enjoys reading, listening to music and watching movies. He focuses on his hopes for the future and connections to life outside of prison to get by each day. Jackson wants to be an entrepreneur, rebuild relationships and focus on community outreach with at-risk youth.
“I look forward to my future, spending time with my wife and my family,” Jackson said. “My hope is to start a family and raise our children.”
The community support has also helped Jackson deal with 21 years of injustice.
“For a lot of my life, I did not think I would be accepted by society because of what I was accused of,” Jackson said. “But with the outpour of support, I now know not only would I be accepted, but I am also wanted and a key component to what my community needs.”
Jackson has no appeals left. The only way for him to be sent home is for the Governor and the Pardons Board to pardon and commute him. Otherwise, he will spend thirteen more years in prison.
“Even if the pardon board decides to deny my application, the inspiration [from the community] has given me hope for my future,” Jackson said. “I will be forever thankful for that and you all that gave it to me.”
The Send Earnest Home website (sendearnesthome.com) has links available for those wanting to get involved to help Earnest be exonerated. People can send letters and emails to the Nebraska Board of Pardons, share his petition, donate to the campaign and share his story.
#SendEarnestHome can also be found on social media. The Twitter and Instagram handle is @sendearnesthome and the Facebook page is Send Earnest Home.