In the middle of his jury trial yesterday, a 45-year-old man decided to plead guilty to a vicious attack on a woman in her Center City home two years ago, in which he stabbed her in the throat and tried to rape her.
Jurors were not in the courtroom during the guilty plea, but were instead kept in a back room and later informed.
Common Pleas Judge Gwendolyn Bright accepted the negotiated plea deal and sentenced Duane Jackson, of Judson Way near Jefferson Street, North Philadelphia, to six to 12 years in state prison, followed by 20 years' probation.
Jackson's public defender, Roger Schrading, said afterward that his client's decision to plead guilty "was a surprise to me." He would not comment on why his client had made the decision, but acknowledged that negotiations for a plea occurred after the victim finished testifying yesterday.
The woman, 37, told jurors on Friday that she awoke about 4 a.m. July 31, 2007, in her home, on Waverly Street near 25th, to the sight of Jackson, whom she did not know, in a "lunging" position at the foot of her bed.
She screamed, then he stabbed her in the throat with a long knife. As she continued screaming, she put up her left arm to protect her throat and he stabbed her four times in that arm.
He also touched her vaginal area during the assault. After her struggling and screaming, he finally fled, and she called 9-1-1. Jurors on Friday also heard her gut-wrenching 9-1-1 call, during which she begged and screamed for seven minutes for police to come to her house.
During a testy cross-examination yesterday, in which Schrading asked questions about her ability to identify his client, she again was adamant that Jackson was the man who attacked her.
She testified that despite there not being any DNA evidence in the case - though she said she wished there was some for the jury's comfort - she has been positive that the man whom she picked in a police imaging database, in a photo array and in a lineup, and whom she identified in court as her assailant, was the right man.
She recalled telling police that the man had moles on his face.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Bretschneider, during re-direct examination yesterday, asked the woman to sit in a seat across from Jackson.
The woman bravely did so and identified three moles on his face.
Moments after she returned to the witness stand, she could no longer hold her composure. Tears streamed down her face.
The woman left after her testimony and was not in court when Jackson pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder, attempted rape, burglary and possession of an instrument of crime.
Bretschneider said the negotiated sentence, which was below sentencing guidelines, had been based on Jackson's decision to accept responsibility and the victim's agreement to it by phone.
The judge deferred sentencing on the attempted-rape charge until Sept. 17, pending a sexual-offender assessment. The assessment will not affect Jackson's agreed-upon sentence. *