Robert Jackson was among 3,000 prisoners released in earlier Department of Corrections fiasco
OLYMPIA – Resentencing of a man who got life without parole after he killed his girlfriend in a bloody 2015 car crash is a travesty that illustrates the terrible human consequences when the Legislature goes “soft on crime,” Republican senators say.
Robert Jackson was resentenced to 33 years Friday by a King County Superior Court judge, the result of a bill passed by legislative Democrats during the 2021 legislative session that weakened the state’s Three Strikes law. Jackson, 45, will be eligible for parole and possible release.
Jackson’s conviction for vehicular homicide is especially notable because it figured in a high-profile case of mismanagement at the state Department of Corrections six years ago. Jackson was among approximately 3,000 convicted felons who were released from prison early due to a computer-programming mistake, and who committed new crimes when they should have been behind bars. Jackson was one of two felons whose new crimes resulted in death.
“Robert Jackson has become the symbol of the misguided effort we have seen in the Legislature to reduce sentences and get convicted felons back on the streets sooner,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “He is the sort of career criminal voters had in mind when they passed our Three Strikes law in 1993. Three convictions for serious crimes are supposed to mean life without parole. Unfortunately, our colleagues last year decided to weaken the law, and they weren’t interested in asking voters if they approve.
“The case is especially appalling because it figured so heavily in the 2016 Department of Corrections scandal. Jackson should never have been released to commit the crime in the first place. When we debated the bill last year, we knew at least 100 repeat offenders would get lighter sentences. Everyone should have known we would see cases as egregious as this one. I hope my colleagues pause for a moment to consider Robert Jackson’s victim, Lindsay Hill, the brutality of the crime he committed, and our duty to ensure justice is served.”
Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, said the resentencing underscores the devastating consequences of the Legislature’s actions. “It is indefensible that Mr. Jackson now has a shorter sentence and the chance to seek parole, despite killing Lindsay Hill,” he said. “Lindsay’s family is devastated. The state let them down before when Inslee’s Department of Corrections negligently released Mr. Jackson and more than 3,000 other prisoners early. Had he served his full term then, Lindsay might still be alive. And now the state is letting her family down again by reducing the sentence of her killer.
“Increasingly, people feel they are no longer safe and that the rights of criminals are more important than the rights of victims. Sadly, thanks to extreme Democrat ‘reforms,’ they’re right. Where’s the justice for people like Lindsay?”
The bill weakening Washington’s Three Strikes law, SB 5164, was among 17 bills that reduce criminal penalties passed since 2018 under Democratic leadership of the state House and Senate. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, removed second-degree robbery as a qualifying crime for a Three Strikes life sentence. The bill was retroactive, meaning mandatory resentencing hearings for those who already had been sentenced to life-without-parole under the Three Strikes law.
The Jackson case made headlines in 2015 and 2016 in part because of the early-release fiasco, but also due to the brutal nature of his crime. In 2015, Jackson was improperly released from prison four months early after doing time for armed robbery. He was driving the night of Nov. 11 when he slammed his car into a Bellevue utility box with such force that girlfriend Hill was thrown through the windshield and died of catastrophic head injuries. The body was discovered by Hill’s son, and Jackson was arrested after a witness reported seeing a blood-soaked man near Hill’s apartment.
When SB 5164 was debated on the Senate floor in 2021, Republicans presented a series of amendments that would have prevented mandatory resentencing for Jackson and others who already had been sentenced under the Three Strikes law. They included an amendment from Padden that would have eliminated retroactivity. Sen. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, offered an amendment that would have allowed prosecutors to decide whether to seek resentencing. Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, offered an amendment that would have placed the issue on the ballot and allowed voters to decide.
The amendments were rejected by majority Democrats, and the bill passed the Senate on a caucus-line vote, 28-21. The measure passed the House 52-46. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on April 26, 2021.