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Mother Convicted Of Child Abuse After Daughter’s Suicide

October 31, 1987

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) _ A woman was convicted of driving her 17-year-old daughter to suicide by forcing her to work as a nude dancer, a verdict her lawyer in the landmark child-abuse case labeled an ″ugly precedent.″

A jury found Theresa Jackson, 40, guilty Friday of child abuse, procuring a sexual performance by a child and forgery. The charges carry a total of up to 25 years in prison.

Mrs. Jackson is believed to be the only mother ever criminally charged in a child’s suicide.

Broward Circuit Judge Arthur Franza scheduled sentencing for Dec. 3, and ordered Mrs. Jackson jailed at least until she receives a psychiatric evaluation, citing testimony that she planned to kill herself.

Tina Mancini killed herself with her mother’s .357-caliber Magnum pistol in 1986. Prosectors charged that three months earlier, Mrs. Jackson got her underage daughter a job as a nude dancer by forging her birth certificate.

Assistant State Attorney Kathleen Kearney told the jury during closing arguments Wednesday that Mrs. Jackson mentally abused her daughter and lived off her earnings.

The jury, which heard nearly 11 days of testimony, deliberated for 13 hours over three days. As the verdict was read, Mrs. Jackson, who had at times burst into tears during the trial, remained composed.

″We dealt with Tina’s lifetime, as best we could put it together, and it was a lifetime of abuse,″ said the jury foreman, Cheryl Tryon. ″The nude dancing was the final straw. We saw a lifetime of mom only taking care of mom.″

Defense attorney Kenneth Whitman said he will appeal. ″This ugly precedent that has been set will be wiped from the annals of criminal jurisprudence,″ he said. ″It should never have been in court.″

Ms. Kearney denied that the case set a precedent, given its unique nature. ″These facts are truly horrendous,″ she said.

The defense had sought to portray Mrs. Jackson as an emotionally and mentally disturbed woman who couldn’t control a headstrong, rebellious teen- ager intent on becoming rich and famous.

Mrs. Jackson and psychiatrists and psychologists who had treated her testified that she believed in supernatural phenomena, including demons haunting her bedroom.

Prosecution witnesses included Mrs. Jackson’s older son and father, whose reports to police led to the charges against her, and a psychiatrist who provided a ″psychological autopsy.″

Dr. Douglas Jacobs, a psychiatry professor at Harvard University’s medical school, concluded from information he was given after the suicide that the exploitative relationship between mother and daughter was a significant factor in Miss Mancini’s suicide.

Asked about the impact of Jacobs’ testimony on the jury’s decision, juror Katherine Kay said it was just one factor.

Ms. Tryon said Mrs. Jackson’s testimony showed she was sharp, cunning and in control. ″She handled herself so well. It didn’t coincide with the image she wanted to portray.″

A social worker testified that Mrs. Jackson told him last year that she planned to kill herself after the trial. When Ms. Kearney asked Mrs. Jackson on the stand if she would kill herself, the defendant refused to answer either way.

At Broward County Jail, guards were advised to watch Mrs. Jackson carefully, said sheriff’s spokesman Al Gordon.

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