Jade Sasha Janks seemed visibly shocked when a San Diego County jury read its verdict in her murder trial, which found her guilty of first-degree murder. Her defense lawyers were hoping for a lesser charge, such as manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter, but those requests were denied by the jurors.
The 39-year-old interior designer was wide-eyed as she turned to face her lawyers upon hearing the verdict. She was convicted of killing Thomas Merriman – her 64-year-old stepfather – on December 31, 2020, shortly after she found nude photos of herself on his computer. She has maintained her innocence.
Jada Sasha Janks was originally jailed without bail, but that changed in February when she was released after posting bail – which was set at $1 million. Her next court date is April 3, 2023 as she awaits the sentencing for the murder – though her defense team will dedicate themselves to the appeal process.
Merriman was a butterfly conservationist and co-founder of Butterfly Farms in Encinitas. According to prosecutors, Janks drugged her step-father before suffocating him with a bag and choking him to death. According to Janks and her legal team, Merriman died of an overdose after taking too many sleeping pills.
While the official cause of death was ‘acute zolpidem (Ambien) intoxication,’ texts sent by Janks on the day of her stepfather’s death tell a different story. In the texts, Janks writes she just ‘dosed the he** out of him’ and she ‘can’t keep a kicking body in my trunk.’ She added she’s about to ‘club him on the head.’
Jade Sasha Janks has since confirmed the texts were real, but argued they were taken out of context. She went on to detail finding the nude photos of herself on his computer while cleaning his house. As she described it, the photos were organized into different folders and even dated back to her teenage years.
Unlike the text messages, the courts weren’t able to confirm the photos existed – Janks testified that she deleted the hard drive upon discovery. As a result, she’s now facing 25 years to life in prison as long as the appeal process doesn’t complicate things. We should be learning more in the coming weeks.
Defense Lawyers Maintain Innocence of Jade Sasha Janks
After the verdict was read, Deputy District Attorney Jorge Del Portillo took a moment to thank the jurors for their efforts during the trial. “They’ve been excellent and patient and kind and attentive throughout this whole trial, and we’re just happy we achieved some justice for Tom and his family,” he told reporters.
On the other side of the table, Jade Sasha Janks’ defense team is doubling down on her innocence and continues to deny wrongdoing. “The reason why Jade went to trial was she believed she was not guilty of this thing, and that’s been her position through the whole case,” said Defense lawyer Marc Carlos.
“It’s just a surreal situation to be in. When the jury walks in, hands the note to the judge, the judge reads the note and then the note goes over to the clerk and the clerk begins to read it, it’s like an eternity. So it has a lot of psychological stress,” Carlos continued, noting that his client’s stunned reaction was justified.
Jade Sasha Janks was immediately taken into custody after being convicted of first-degree murder – which is a large reason why she seemed so shocked. She’ll be in custody for the next few months, leading up to her next court date in April. At that point, we’ll learn what’s next for the 39-year-old.
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