Teen surrenders to await trial for Royersford jogger's death (video)

Justin Matthew Jackson, 18, of Lower Pottsgrove, who is being charged with homicide by vehicle for the death of a female jogger from Royersford in a Limerick crash.

NORRISTOWN — A Lower Pottsgrove teenager, reportedly racked with “remorse and regret,” voluntarily went to jail to await his fate for allegedly having marijuana in his system and texting while driving when he fatally struck a female jogger in Limerick.

Justin Matthew Jackson, 18, of the 3600 block of Walnut Ridge Estate, appeared at the Montgomery County Courthouse with his parents on Tuesday and told Senior Judge William T. Nicholas he was ready to begin getting jail time credit as he awaits trial in connection with the 2:45 p.m. March 4 crash on North Lewis Road that claimed the life of jogger Merinda R. Thompson, 40, of Royersford.

Jackson, who had been free on bail since his arrest earlier this year, was immediately handcuffed by county sheriff’s deputies and made no comments as he was escorted from the courtroom for the trip to jail.

“My client has found it very difficult to live with himself and to live with the remorse and the regret that he’s felt since this tragic incident,” defense lawyer Martin P. Mullaney said on Jackson’s behalf. “Every day all he thinks about is the fact that the vehicle he was driving killed that innocent jogger and it’s been very difficult for him to live with that.

“So he had approached me and asked if he could begin serving any type of prison sentence and that’s why he agreed and wanted to turn himself in today,” Mullaney added. “We think this case will resolve by way of a non-trial disposition or some form of a guilty plea at some point.”

Assistant District Attorney Jason Whalley said the case still is scheduled for a trial. A pretrial conference with a judge has been scheduled for September.

“At this point, there has been no negotiation and no agreement and this case is headed towards trial,” Whalley said. “But hopefully, this does appear that Mr. Jackson is beginning to accept responsibility for the tragedy. This is an open case that is heading for trial at this point and today was a small, first step toward achieving justice for the victim and her family and that ultimately is our goal here.”

Jackson faces charges of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence of a controlled substance, homicide by vehicle, DUI, unsworn falsification to authorities, recklessly endangering another person, possession of a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and prohibiting text-based communication in connection with the crash.

“I think it’s fair to say that based on the charges that have been brought against him that he will either enter a plea of guilty to one or some of those charges,” said Mullaney, adding he will continue to review evidence in the case and then make an assessment “for what we think would be the appropriate plea.”

Since his arrest, Jackson graduated from high school and sought counseling, Mullaney said.

“Those two things are done at this point and he’s been sitting home with nothing but time on his hands and all he keeps doing is reliving this horrific day, understanding the tragedy that he brought on to this woman’s family and children and he’s had a hard time living with that guilt and remorse,” Mullaney said.

“With all the time on his hands he was finding it difficult to go day by day and get through each one of those days with that constant thought in his head and it’s on that basis that he approached me and said that he wanted to begin his jail sentence,” Mullaney added.

Jackson is believed to be the first person to be prosecuted under a relatively new state law that bans reading, writing or sending text messages for all drivers while a vehicle is in motion.

The investigation, which included a search of the contents of Jackson’s cell phone, determined that prior to the crash, between 2:23 p.m. and 2:41 p.m., Jackson was engaged in a series of “chat messages” with another person, according to the criminal complaint.

At 2:44 p.m. Jackson placed a call to “Dad” and the call was not answered, court documents alleged. The time between the last text message and the phone call to “Dad” is two minutes 49 seconds, authorities alleged.

A 911 call connected to the crash was created by Montgomery County Emergency Dispatch at 2:45 p.m., according to authorities.

Blood tests determined “metabolites of marijuana were found in Jackson’s blood,” according to the criminal complaint. Based upon the analysis of the concentrations of marijuana in the blood, authorities alleged in court documents that Jackson “was smoking marijuana on or about the time of the crash” and that such concentrations rendered him unfit to safely operate a motor vehicle.

A marijuana pipe was observed “in plain view on the front driver’s side floor” of Jackson’s green 2000 Ford Focus, according to the criminal complaint filed by county Detective David Schanes and Limerick Detective Ernie Morris. During a search of the vehicle, investigators recovered a glass pipe, a container of suspected marijuana and empty prescription bottles of medication in Jackson’s name, court documents alleged.

The crash occurred in the 400 block of North Lewis Road in front of Chesterbrook Academy. Investigators determined Jackson’s vehicle was traveling northbound on North Lewis Road. Thompson, a mother of two, was jogging properly along the southbound shoulder of the roadway in a northbound direction.

Due to Jackson “being impaired, distracted and driving in a reckless manner,” his car traveled to the left, crossed the double yellow line and entered the southbound travel lane, striking Thompson with the front, driver’s side of his car, authorities alleged.

Thompson, a mother of two, was catapulted forward and came to rest in a parking lot off the west side of the road, detectives said. Jackson’s vehicle continued on, striking a utility pole.

Jackson allegedly told police he does smoke marijuana but denied smoking any marijuana on the day of the crash.

Follow Carl Hessler Jr. on Twitter @MontcoCourtNews

The following is an earlier verson of this story

NORRISTOWN — A Lower Pottsgrove teenager has surrendered to authorities to await trial on charges he allegedly had marijuana in his system and was distracted while texting and driving when he fatally struck a female jogger on a Limerick roadway.

Justin Matthew Jackson, 18, of the 3600 block of Walnut Ridge Estate, appeared at the Montgomery County Courthouse with his parents on Tuesday and told Senior Judge William T. Nicholas he was ready to begin getting jail time credit as he awaits trial in connection with the 2:45 p.m. March 4 crash in Limerick that claimed the life of jogger Merinda R. Thompson, 40, of Royersford.

“My client has found it very difficult to live with himself and to live with the remorse and the regret that he’s felt since this tragic incident,” defense lawyer Martin P. Mullaney said on Jackson’s behalf. “Every day all he thinks about is the fact that the vehicle he was driving killed that innocent jogger and it’s been very difficult for him to live with that.

“So he had approached me and asked if he could begin serving any type of prison sentence and that’s why he agreed and wanted to turn himself in today,” Mullaney added. “We think this case will resolve by way of a non-trial disposition or some form of a guilty plea at some point.”

Assistant District Attorney Jason Whalley said the case is still scheduled for trial.

“At this point there has been no negotiation and no agreement and this case is headed towards trial,” Whalley said. “But hopefully, this does appear that Mr. Jackson is beginning to accept responsibility for the tragedy. This is an open case that is heading for trial at this point, and today was a small, first step toward achieving justice for the victim and her family and that ultimately is our goal here.”

Jackson faces charges of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence of a controlled substance, homicide by vehicle, DUI, unsworn falsification to authorities, recklessly endangering another person, possession of a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and prohibiting text-based communication in connection with the crash.

Until Tuesday, Jackson had been free after posting 10 percent of $100,000 cash bail while awaiting trial.

Follow Carl Hessler Jr. on Twitter @MontcoCourtNews