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  • RANDY PENCH / rpench@sacbee.com

    Carla Jean Walker, right, accompanied by victims advocate Ahmanal Dorsey, struggles Tuesday in Superior Court to talk about her husband, James Walker, a cab driver shot to death Oct. 18, 2010, in North Highlands. She sobbed as she told of their 7-year-old son, who doesn't want to go to school because his dad can't come to class as his classmates' fathers do.

  • RANDY PENCH / rpench@sacbee.com

    Jermaine Campbell at his murder sentencing.

Son's sadness wrenching, says wife of murdered Sacramento-area cab driver

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 3, 2013 - 8:44 am

Carla Jean Walker's tears soaked up half a box of tissues Tuesday while she sorted through the pain and what-ifs of her husband's murder.

"My husband, the driver, James, probably would be the best cab driver ride you would ever get in your life," she told a hushed Sacramento courtroom. "He would get you to talk about your own business and have your problem resolved before you could even get out of his cab."

Her sobs intensified. Then they broke completely loose when she told Superior Court Judge Cheryl Chun Meegan – and murderer Jermaine John Campbell, who turned around to look at her – the story of her 7-year-old son.

"It tears my heart out when he tells me he can't remember his dad's voice," Walker cried. "It hurts when he comes home from school – and he loves school – and he says, 'I don't want to go back, because the kids have their fathers come to their awards.' Their fathers come to hear them in his class. 'Mine can't.' "

Cab driver James Walker, 54, died in the early morning of Oct. 18, 2010, when Campbell shot him during a robbery in the parking lot of the Hillside Village Apartments in North Highlands.

Judge Meegan on Tuesday sentenced Campbell to life in prison with no chance of parole, plus 25 years to life for discharging the gun that killed Walker.

A second convicted defendant, Jonathan Steven Hudson, 21, is scheduled for an April 26 sentencing. Jurors acquitted a third defendant in the case.

According to Walker's wife, she and her husband met 20 years ago while working for a cab company in Oakland. He drove a cab, and she dispatched them.

"We were married for five years," she said. "He brought me to Sacramento. And he continued to drive in Oakland. And I convinced him to come and drive in Sacramento. I thought it was safer for him to drive in Sacramento compared to Oakland."

Carla Jean Walker grieved over the last time she saw her husband, the night he went to work for Yellow Cab Co. in the hours before he was killed.

"I did not say goodbye to my husband," she said. "So I allowed him to walk out the door without telling him how much I loved and cared for him. To wake up in the morning and see his cab on the news destroyed everything."

Emotionally, physically, psychologically: Carla Walker said the hurt has engulfed her. She said she still "must forgive" Campbell for murdering her husband. She said she advocated against the death penalty when prosecutors sought her out. She said she has prayed for Campbell and his family.

She said she has had a difficult time understanding Campbell's demeanor, why he never exhibited any remorse for what he did. Throughout the trial, the 21-year-old defendant laughed and smirked as he sat at the defense table. The odd countenance became even more pronounced when he testified in his own defense.

During Tuesday's sentencing, it seemed like Campbell had lost all control over his gestures – either that or some sort of indescribable pathology had taken hold.

Citing Campbell's criminal record as contained in his probation report, Judge Meegan suggested it might have been the latter.

It told a tale of criminality that goes back to when he was 13 years old, when he threw a book at a teacher. Then he got caught breaking into cars in a church parking lot. Still a juvenile, he hit an off-duty correctional officer in the head with a rock.

Four months before Campbell murdered Walker, he was breaking windows on a house. When a woman inside came outside to confront him, he smashed her across the face with a board, the report said.

"In the court's view, for some unfathomable reason, Mr. Campbell has not adopted a moral code," Meegan said.

"He chooses not to conform his behavior to that which is what we think is acceptable in society, to respect the life and rights of others."

The judge called Campbell's smirking and laughing "an insult to the memory of the victim in this matter."

Campbell, the father of a 3-year-old, said he didn't mean it that way. He told Meegan it was only his way of "easing my pain, easing my anger, and to help me in this situation."

As for remorse, Campbell said, "I would apologize, but it ain't going to change nothing. It ain't going to bring him back."

In his trial testimony, Campbell said he shot Walker out of the mistaken fear that the cabbie was going for a gun to defend himself during the robbery. In the probation report, he said he fired when Walker, who had both hands raised during the stickup, dropped his left hand. Campbell described himself as being somewhat paranoid during the robbery.

"I got what I deserve," Campbell told the court, of the conviction and his impending life sentence with no chance of parole. "Ain't no doubt about that."

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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