Peggy Joe Jackson
Released in March, 2013 after 26 years for tangential participation in the death of her abusive husband.

Peggy Joe Jackson clemency Peggy Jo Jackson

Clemency for woman convicted in husband's death
Peggy Jo Jackson was imprisoned for about 26 years
March 30, 2013

Peggy Jo Jackson, who had been in prison for the murder of her husband since 1987, was granted clemency Friday and freed.

A woman who spent more than 26 years in prison for the murder of her allegedly abusive husband was freed Friday after being granted clemency by Gov. Pat Quinn.
Peggy Jo Jackson, 57, had been serving a life sentence for the 1986 slaying of William Jackson.

Jackson, the subject of an October story in the Tribune, left Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois on Friday afternoon and stopped at a roadside restaurant shortly afterward, according to her lawyer, Margaret Byrne. Jackson and her family were not ready to be speak to a reporter, Byrne said.

Jackson's request for clemency was heard in October by the Illinois Prisoner Review Board, which considers clemency petitions and makes nonbinding recommendations to the governor. The clemency effort was led by the Illinois Clemency Project, an organization co-founded by Byrne that aims to free women imprisoned for killing or injuring abusive spouses.

In their petition, Jackson's attorneys painted a harrowing tale of domestic violence by William Jackson. After an intense period of abuse, Peggy Jo Jackson's brother, Richard Harshbarger, showed up at her Jefferson County home and confronted William Jackson, according to the petition. Peggy Jo Jackson took her four children out of the house and drove them to a neighbor's home, the petition said.

The evidence presented at the trial was that Harshbarger shot Jackson. Harshbarger and Peggy Jo Jackson were tried together, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Harshbarger died in 2006.

Quinn's decision to grant Jackson's clemency request was exceptional for its speed, said Kenneth Tupy, chief legal counsel at the Prisoner Review Board. Quinn inherited a backlog of clemency petitions and is reviewing cases from the board's 2008 docket, Tupy said.

Jackson's petition was one of 222 clemency petitions — some dating to 2005 — that Quinn dealt with Friday. He granted 87 petitions and denied 135.

Abused Woman Seeks Clemency for Husband's Murder 26 Years Ago
William Peacock, Esq. on October 15, 2012 3:03 PM

The year 1986 was a very different time. Marion County Circuit Judge Michael D. McHaney was a young and inexperienced lawyer, in way over his head. Peggy Jo Jackson was a young bride and an alleged victim of years of domestic violence. There were no shelters for battered women in Jefferson County in 1986. There were only a few in the state. The
Domestic Violence Act was passed just that year.

The day before her husband’s death, Jackson says that her brother called and told her to leave her door unlocked and not tell her husband, as he wanted to talk to him. The next day, when her brother began to argue with her husband, she took the children away from the fight. When she returned,
her husband was dead. The body was found, beaten with a baseball bat and shot, in the back of a burning car, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Jackson and her brother, Richard Harshbarger, were convicted of first degree murder. Prosecutors argued that there was a conspiracy to kill her husband. Jackson's lawyer, Judge McHaney, presented no evidence of domestic violence. He also allowed her to be interviewed by investigators immediately after the murder. "That was the first of several serious mistakes I made in this case, which continues to haunt me to this day," he wrote in an affidavit in support of Jackson's petition for

Peggy Joe Jackson's present day counsel, provided by the
Illinois Clemency Project for Battered Women, are no longer arguing innocence, though that certainly is a good question. They are asking the governor for clemency and for her life sentence without the possibility of parole to be commuted to the twenty-six years that she has already served. If she is released, she plans to live on her sister's farm and rescue and train abused dogs. Her brother died behind bars in 2006.

The clemency process in Illinois can take years to complete. An application has to be
filed with the state's Prisoner Review Board. The prosecutor's office has to be notified of the application so that they can be heard as well. The application can be decided on paper or the petitioner can request a public hearing.

After the hearing, the board makes a confidential recommendation to the governor. Then, when the governor has time to review the case (there is currently a significant backlog), he decides whether or not to grant clemency. If clemency is granted, the petitioner is then released from custody. A petition to the Governor in
support of Peggy Joe Jackson's clemency is available online, at

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