By ISAAC MONTROSE & DEREK NORMAN
The Maryland man who fatally stabbed a black man in what is being called a hate crime was arraigned Thursday in Manhattan criminal court, after he told police that he travelled to New York City for the sole purpose of killing black men.
James Harris Jackson, 28, did not enter a plea and was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime. His defense attorney hinted that the defendant was psychologically impaired, requiring mental assessment ordered by the court.
“What we’re going to do is take a few minutes, let the dust settle and figure out what the facts are,” Sam Talkin, the defense attorney, told reporters outside the courthouse. “If the facts are anything near what the allegations are, then we’re going to address the obvious psychological issues that are present in this case.”
The defendant, wearing an all-white jumpsuit, stood silently with his back to the audience, as Assistant DA Joan Illuzzi said the prosecution reserved the right to upgrade the to first-degree murder after arguing that his actions could be seen as an act of terror.
Jackson, a white man and former Army veteran, travelled by bus from Baltimore to Manhattan last Monday, where he checked into a Midtown hotel and wandered a bit just before he fatally stabbed his victim multiple times, officials said.
Jackson told authorities that he had long harbored his racist hatred before arriving in New York. From what he told authorities, he chose the city because it is the “media capital” and he wanted to “make a statement.”
The victim, Timothy Caughman, a 66-year-old Queens native, was rummaging through a trashcan just before the defendant stabbed him several times in the chest and back. After the defendant fled, Caughman walked two blocks to the Times Square police substation. Police called an ambulance and rushed the victim to Bellevue Hospital, where he later died.
Just after midnight on Wednesday, Jackson surrendered to the police after seeing himself in a news video of the earlier attack. Jackson told police of his intentions of killing black men and where he tossed the murder weapon, a 26-inch sword he had concealed in his overcoat.
Video surveillance footage surfaced which showed Jackson shadowing another black man around the city in the days before the incident, but never attacking.
Both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed horror at the incident. De Blasio publically urged residents to “speak clearly and forcefully in the face of intolerance and violence,” according to reports.
“This man committed an evil act and we hope that he is punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Walter “Hawk” Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of greater New York. “Make no mistake about it, this is an act of domestic terrorism. There’s no way that Mr. Caughman should’ve had to die like this.”
The defendant was remanded and the court adjourned until March 27.