An Alabama man who attacked his pregnant ex-girlfriend two years ago, killing their unborn child, told a friend afterward, “I didn’t want to hurt her, just the baby,” prosecutors said at the man’s trial this week in Birmingham.
Christopher Ammons Kemp, 31, did not deny the March 2016 assault that capped weeks of separation between him and Jessica Jackson, his defense attorney, John Robbins, said in court on Tuesday, reports AL.com.
“He is responsible for his conduct that day,” that injured Jackson and the pair’s unborn child, Robbins said.
However, Robbins argued his client did not plan what happened and should be found guilty of a lesser charge — such as felony murder or manslaughter — rather than the count of capital murder facing him, according to AL.com.
Kemp himself reportedly testified that he did not recall his exact actions and claimed he blacked out, though prosecutors argue he intended to kill the baby.
“I just panicked,” Kemp testified, AL.com reports. “I had a drug-induced psychotic episode.”
He is charged with domestic violence and capital murder stemming from the altercation at Jackson’s residence, according to police who announced his arrest hours after the seven-months-pregnant Jackson, then 28, was found walking along a roadway and suffering from serious injuries.
Although Jackson’s unborn baby girl was pronounced dead at a hospital, she survived.
The violent incident was the work of “a jilted ex who felt like he was being pushed out,” Deputy District Attorney Neal Zarzour said in his opening statement on Tuesday, according to AL.com.
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The couple had met in middle school and dated in high school but broke up before they reconnected in 2014 while Jackson was married, court testimony showed.
After Jackson divorced, Kemp and his daughter from a prior relationship moved into her home in 2015. But throughout that year Jackson kept putting Kemp out, culminating in a New Year’s Eve incident when she grew fearful after he fired a gun outside the home, AL.com reports.
After Jackson refused to have sex with him days later, Kemp got mad and cut off her electricity — a breaking point in their relationship. “That was the last straw,” prosecutor Zarzour said.
Tensions continued between the estranged pair until the March 15, 2016 attack, when Kemp, under the influence of unprescribed Xanax that he was “popping … like it was candy” encountered Jackson in her home’s garage and snapped, Robbins, his attorney, said.
Kemp, who had gone back to Jackson’s residence to retrieve some belongings, did not expect to cross paths with her because he thought she would be taking his daughter to a dance class, as she normally did, Robbins said. That day however, Jackson had arranged for someone else to pick up Kemp’s child.
On the stand, Kemp said he recalled the moments leading to the alleged assault in Jackson’s garage, but then his memory went blank. He next remembered that he was on top of Jackson, using his left hand to strangle her and his right hand to punch her, when he realized what was happening.
“You left her in the garage unconscious and bleeding,” said Zarzour.
“Yes,” Kemp answered.
He said he tried to call for help on Jackson’s phone but was frustrated by its locking device and shattered the phone when he threw it — an action that prosecutors argued was an attempt to leave Jackson without a way to summon anyone to help her.
Kemp then left the scene. Hours later, when he was arrested, he told police that he was on his way to turn himself in, according to testimony.
In the interim Kemp sent a message via Facebook to a friend of Jackson’s family, writing “I didn’t want to hurt her, just the baby,” detective Daniel Lowe previously testified during a preliminary hearing in the case.
Zarzour recalled that statement for jurors, who began their deliberations on Friday.
Kemp’s attorney said that Facebook message was sent while Kemp was scared and intoxicated on pills and after he learned how significantly Jackson had been injured, according to AL.com.
“I meant to type ‘or the baby,’ not ‘just the baby,’ ” Kemp reportedly said.
He could face the death penalty if convicted of his capital murder charge.