By Staff and wire report
A Chinook judge has sealed evidence in the trial of a Harlem man charged with killing a Blaine County sheriff's deputy and wounding another.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Laurence Jackson Jr., 26. His trial is scheduled to start June 7 in Missoula.
District Judge John McKeon on Friday granted a defense motion to suppress statements made by Jackson after the shooting.
Jackson attorney Ed Sheehy of Helena argued on Feb. 10 that the judge should suppress Jackson's statements because they were obtained in violation of Jackson's Miranda rights.
Details about the statements and how they were obtained are not known since McKeon closed the April 13 hearing on the issue.
Jackson's attorneys argued that the suppression hearing should be closed because media coverage of it could taint the jury pool in Missoula.
McKeon agreed in September to move the trial from Blaine County after the prosecution and defense made a joint request for a change of venue, citing pretrial publicity, the nature of the charges against Jackson and the small population of Blaine County. McKeon in December selected Missoula County as the site for the trial.
The Havre Daily News initially agreed to a compromise with Jackson's attorneys that would have allowed the newspaper to attend the April 13 suppression hearing even if it were closed to the public. Under the compromise, the newspaper would have been permitted to immediately publish a story about the supression hearing and Jackson's statements if the judge decided not to suppress the evidence. If the judge ruled in favor of suppression, the Daily News would not have been permitted to print information about the hearing or Jackson's statements until a jury had been seated.
The Havre Daily News later asked the judge to disregard the compromise and open the hearing to the public. McKeon denied that request.
McKeon also denied arguments made by the Great Falls Tribune on April 13 that the hearing should be open to the public. The Montana Supreme Court earlier denied a Tribune request that the suppression hearing be delayed.
Attorneys John Shontz, representing the Daily News, and Jennifer Hendricks, representing the Tribune, argued that the defense should be required to present evidence that media coverage would taint the jury pool and also that the court needed to consider alternatives to closing the hearing.
The Havre Daily News did not attend the closed hearing.
Jackson is charged with deliberate homicide in the shooting death of deputy Joshua Rutherford on May 29 near Harlem and with attempted deliberate homicide in the wounding of deputy Loren Jamis in the same incident.