Sunday, February 03, 2008

Character, Crime & Prescience

It's a good thing I'm not in the crime prediction business.

I was looking through some old photographs last night when I found a signed photograph of a high school classmate. He was in my chemistry, physics, and English classes. He was likable. And he was brilliant.

His name was Edward Jackson. He was among the cadre of slide rule toters. Slide rules were all the rage -- Kessler was the preferred brand -- before electronic calculators came along.

Edward was in some fancy company. For example, one of our classmates went on to make a sterling career in astrophysics.

After I found Edward Jackson's photograph, a wave of nostalgia seized me. After graduating from high school, I had left Columbus, Ohio, and I had returned to Columbus only rarely. Consequently, I had lost touch with childhood friends. Last night I again felt a bit sad about this.

I decided to GOOGLE Jackson. I didn't think I'd find anything. But, I thought, why not?

I did find something almost immediately. I found an August 24, 1983, New York Times article entitled:

Ohio Rape Defendant Was Esteemed as Physician

And there was this in the body of the article:

A year ago, Dr. Edward Franklin Jackson Jr. was a Columbus internist and hospital board member who had the respect of his peers and a successful practice.

On Tuesday, Dr. Jackson's lawyer said that for seven years, the physician also planned a series of rapes. He called Dr. Jackson ''a person who acted compulsively, obsessively, over and over again.''

Dr. Jackson, who was arrested Sept. 5, 1982, in the apartment of two Columbus women, described himself as ''two people, a responsible citizen during the day and an assaulter at night.'' He was charged with raping 38 women and committing 60 other felonies.


If convicted of all 60 charges, which include 22 rapes, Dr. Jackson could be sentenced to 1,380 years in prison.

As a student at Columbus North High School in the class of 1961, the defendant was remembered as a brilliant student, ''very friendly and curious and anxious to please,'' a chemistry teacher, Jim Anderson, said. The student rushed through Ohio State, earning a degree in anatomy in 1964.

In 1965 he met Alice Carolyn Hansen, who became his wife. They have two daughters. He finished his medical degree at Ohio State in 1968 and began his residency at a Columbus hospital. It was then that Dr. Jackson was arrested near the university and charged with possession of burglary tools. ... The case was dropped, but the hospital told Dr. Jackson to leave. He Served in the Army.

When Dr. Jackson returned to Columbus, he joined the staffs of Mount Carmel and St. Anthony and volunteered his services at a community health center. By 1978 he had become a member of the St. Anthony board of trustees and an officer in the Berwick Civic Association.

The story then takes a twist. Another Black man -- whose surname was also Jackson -- was convicted and imprisoned for several of the rapes that Edward Jackson Committed. It was a case of mistaken eyewitness identification:
Meanwhile, the police were baffled by a series of assaults on women that began in 1975.

William Bernard Jackson, who resembles the physician in appearance, was convicted of the rapes and sentenced to 14 to 50 years in prison. It was nearly five years before the police arrested Dr. Edward Jackson, realized their mistake and released William Jackson.

A bit of further investigation revealed that Edward Jackson was convicted. A September 10, 2002, story by Mike Harden in the Columbus Dispatch -- "Rapist's Victim Ends Anonymity to Fight Parole" -- stated:
The physician, whose Jekyll-and-Hyde insanity plea didn't wash with the courts, was found guilty of 36 rapes and 52 related felonies, and sentenced to 282 to 985 years.

The 58-year-old Jackson, who entered prison 19 years ago this month, bides his time in the Southeastern Correctional Institution in Lancaster.

Other newspaper articles reveal that Edward Jackson kept meticulous records -- on 3" x 5" cards -- about his rape victims. A story (August 23, 1983) in the Columbus Dispatch -- "Mass rape suspect goes to trial" by Rosemary Armao -- relates:
Dr. Edward Franklin Jackson Jr. -- an internist, Columbus civic leader and the father of two teenage girls -- pleaded innocent and innocent by reason of insanity to 96 counts of rape, aggravated burglary, sexual imposition and kidnapping.

Authorities suspect there are even more crimes, dating back to 1975, but are prosecuting only in cases where the women are willing to testify. At last report, about 100 witnesses, including more than 40 victims, were willing to travel the 130 miles to Akron.


Police found Dr. Jackson Sept. 5, 1982, while investigating a report of a prowler in an apartment where the women occupants were on vacation. With him they allegedly found a black ski mask, knotted rope and a flashlight.


In the doctor's Mercedes, police found a list of 65 women's names with dates next to them.

''He was always so nice and polite -- not flashy or loud or elaborate,'' said a long-time neighbor of the doctor after the arrest. Indeed, his patients continued to see him while he awaited trial, free on $335,000 bond.

I confess I am shaken and baffled - at a personal level.

The academic side of me is also unnerved. Some years ago I published a paper in which I opined that parents generally make pretty good guesses about the behavior of their children. I thought I knew Edward Franklin Jackson well. But that he would become a serial rapist -- well, of that I had no inkling whatever.

People are strange. Are they also almost completely unpredictable?