Dressing up for Trial


I’m sensitive to these sorts of things, you understand. I can’t help myself. A person’s background informs present realities. So when I see pictures like the one above of Army Major John Jackson wearing full dress uniform as he heads into court, I want to holler at somebody.

The dress uniform holds personal meaning to me. The last time I saw my father he, too, was wearing something similar. Only Daddy wasn’t dressed up for court. He was dressed up for burying.

Every now and again, I come across those close-up photos that somebody, Lord only knows who, took of my father in that casket. When I was a young girl and would happen across those photos in Mama’s file box, the sight would sicken me something fierce. I would shut my eyes and quickly flip through the photos, scared that if I looked too closely at my daddy that way, I might not ever get that dead man’s face out of my mind. Now that I am older, I have actually held those those photos in my hands and studied them for a good long while. I am never quite sure what I am searching for, some hint, I think, of emotion. I believe the face ought to tell the living something about the dying.

I know my father suffered. I learned that while working on After the Flag has been Folded. So his face in death wasn’t exactly peaceful, but he didn’t bear a look of anguish either. He just looked unlike himself. More troubled than anything.

That troubled look, in fact, is very similar to the look Karly Sheehan displayed in the photos I’ve studied of her. All those bruises on her body – over 66 of them – and that awful ruptured eyeball, bloodied and swollen, add a good measure of horror to her photos. Her being only three-years of age makes the photos particularly disturbing.

All of this, I suppose, explains why seeing Jackson walking into court in that uniform makes me so mad I could slap Satan into next Sunday.

Army Major John Jackson and his wife Carolyn are headed to court for the second time on child abuse charges.

Torture. That’s the word the prosecutor used to identify the way Jackson and his wife treated their three foster children. The couple had three biological children of their own.

The Jacksons identified themselves as “devout Christians” who homeschooled their children. Can I just insert here that it is not uncommon for parents who are abusing their children to “homeschool” their children. It is one more way for them to cover up the abuse. That’s exactly why the only woman on Oregon’s death row, Angela McAnulty, pulled her daughter, Jeanette Maples, out of school. Maples confided in a teacher that her mother was abusing her, and the teacher reported the abuse to authorities. “Homeschool” ensures that no oversight will occur. Abusers who homeschool have, in essence, removed the mandatory reporters from the child’s life.

The Jacksons allegedly abused their children. They broke their bones. They denied them water to the point of severe dehydration. One of the foster children was so thirsty, they attempted to drink from the toilet and was reportedly severely punished for it. One child weighed less at three-years of age than they did when they were placed in the Jackson’s care at age 11 months. One boy died.

It is that boy’s death that was the cause of the first trial being dismissed. The judge ruled it a mistrial because she had denied the prosecution the opportunity to speak about that boy’s death during trial. The judge ruled it inadmissible.

U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden said she would not permit any evidence of John and Carolyn Jackson’s son’s death to be shared with the jury not only because it would be “unduly prejudicial” to the couple, but would confuse and mislead the jury.

The child died due to alleged abuse and the Jacksons’s failure to seek medical care for him. But the couple have never been formally charged with their son’s death. Go figure. The court system.

Jackson wore his dress blues during the previous court proceedings as well.

You know why he does it, don’t you?

Why he wears that uniform?

Because it represents honor.

Surely, a man in that uniform couldn’t possibly do the horrible crimes Jackson is accused of doing, could he?

This is a man who served his country, after all. A man who lives a life in service to others. If such a man were to starve a child, and break the bones of a child, then we simply need to trust that he did so for the very reasons he gave to his own biological children: To train a child up rightly.

It was his duty, his obligation, you see, to take in these foster children and shape them into civilized citizens. Even if that meant he had to break every bone in their frail bodies in the process, apparently.

Army Major Jackson was just carrying out his God-given duty as a good father, and honorable soldier.

Surely the jurors will see that when they look across the courtroom and see Jackson sitting there, upright, in those dress blues of his.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Karly Sheehan: True Crime behind Oregon’s Karly’s Law.


Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.



about 7 years ago

This hits particularly close to home for me, too. Thank you. I sure hope the Army strips him of those dress blues. Honor. He has none.


Bill Garbett

about 7 years ago

Agree totally, Karen. The man should never be allowed to wear that uniform again. Another similar PROBLEM Is ministers who. abuse, sexually and physically. And then hide behind their vows and church.


Samantha Clough

about 7 years ago

There are no words for what Im feeling. It saddens me that children must face so much evil.


Tara @ I Might Need a Nap

about 7 years ago

Aren't there regulations as to when and where the dress blues can be worn? Maybe not, but since it's civilian court this does trouble me. His standing in the military should be inadmissible--thus the uniform is inappropriate. Just my two cents. I don't like it at all. I can't even fathom the abuse--that is heart breaking. And WRONG.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 7 years ago

There are, Tara, and I don't understand why this man continues to be allowed to wear this uniform.


Sharon Alden

about 7 years ago

First, is this man still on active duty? If so, he is within his rights to wear his uniform (Army Service Uniform; "dress blues" no longer exist and are unauthorized) in a civilian court - no matter how distasteful or repugnant that may be, given the circumstances. Abusers come from all walks of life, A priest, charged with child sexual abuse, wearing a clerical collar to his court procedings would be equally objectionable, I think, but I've seen no commentary about that. IF he is still on active duty and has not been court-martialed, there is no regulation to prevent him from wearing his uniform to court. Military servicemen and women (including my son, in custody hearings) wear their uniforms to court. The charges against him and his wife are abominable, no question, but he still retains the right to wear his uniform, even if convicted, until such time as UCMJ action is taken against him. And for me, that action can't come soon enough. After thirty years in the Army myself, this is NOT who we are. I think most people get that.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 7 years ago

Personally speaking, I'm of the inclination that uniforms ought to be forbidden in a courtroom. Unless they are prison-issued.


Justin Shuman

about 7 years ago

I agree with you Karen. I had a young man in my platoon once that received his fifth speeding ticket in just under a year and had to go to court. He was in serious danger of losing his license so he wore his dress uniform to court. The judge asked him how long he had been in the military and he said for five plus years. The judge said then you of all people should know what rules are and why they have to be reinforced and suspended his license for six months. He was pretty upset about it and felt because he wore the uniform he should have gotten a break. There are no rules against wearing the uniform to court or anywhere else and it's a privilege to wear it. BUT that privilege can be taken away and that's what the civilian and military justice systems are for. There are mostly honorable men and women in uniform but there a few bad apples and it's shame that they get the same respect for wearing the uniform that others have sacrificed so much to earn to wear.



about 4 years ago

That was my father that you are all talking about!!! That really hurts my feelings!! He didn't hurt us, Carolyn did!!!


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