In 1981, Jernigan was found guilty of "cold-blooded murder" and sentenced to death for killing Edward Hale, a 75-year-old homeowner who discovered Jernigan and an accomplice as they were burglarizing his home. Jernigan spent 12 years in prison before his final plea for clemency was denied. At the prompting of a prison chaplain, he agreed to donate his body for scientific research or medical use. His cadaver was sectioned and photographed for the Visible Human Project and the University of Colorado School of Medicine by Dr. Vic Spitzer and associates. He is the subject of an HBO documentary Virtual Corpse and also appeared on the Britishvideo game TV series, GamesMaster's gore special.