By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
MISSOULA - A wound on the right abdominal area of accused killer Laurence Dean Jackson Jr. could have been caused by a human bite, an expert witness told jurors Wednesday.
Dentist and forensic odontologist David Johnson said he came to that conclusion after examining four photographs of Jackson's injury that were taken after a shooting that left one Blaine County sheriff's deputy dead and another wounded.
Johnson was one of several expert witnesses who testified Wednesday about physical evidence collected in the case, including gunpowder residue and fingerprints.
Jackson, 28, of Harlem is charged with deliberate homicide in the fatal shooting of deputy Joshua Rutherford on May 29, 2003, and attempted deliberate homicide in the wounding of deputy Loren Janis.
The shooting occurred near a power substation on U.S. Highway 2, outside of Harlem. Prosecutors allege that Jackson led Rutherford on a foot chase before wrestling the deputy's Glock .40-caliber service handgun away from him and shooting Rutherford in the chest, then turning the gun on Janis, who returned fire. Jackson's trial began two weeks ago.
The defense, which has yet to present its case, has suggested in opening statements that the wound on Jackson could have been from a bullet fired by Janis that ricocheted and hit Rutherford, killing him.
Johnson said he works as a forensic odontologist consultant with the Montana State Crime Lab. He said Jackson's wound fit some characteristics of a bite mark injury, including its size, shape and the tearing away of tissue -called an avulsion.
Johnson said the wound is consistent with a "pattern injury," which is caused by an object or tool - like teeth - and can be replicated. Johnson said teeth can be compared to a hinged tool, like pliers.
Johnson said the rough edge and oval shape of the injury depicted in the photos could indicate a teeth pattern. He said it also looked like a tissue section of the middle of the wound had been ripped off, which can happen with bite injuries.
"In my experience, this has the characteristics of a bite pattern injury," Johnson told jurors.
In a cross-examination by the defense, Johnson said he rendered his opinion based on his examination of photographs and acknowledged the wound could have been caused by something else.
Johnson testified that he also analyzed a series of pictures taken of Rutherford's left arm, which he said showed bite marks consistent with impression casts he made from Jackson's teeth. Johnson said Jackson had a unique incisor tooth turned at a 90-degree angle, in addition to some chipping of other teeth, which made it possible for him to compare and match the teeth impressions with photos of Rutherford's arm.
A gunshot residue kit administered on Jackson by Havre police Lt. George Tate at the Hill County Detention Center about an hour after the shooting turned up little to no evidence of residue on his body, an expert witness for the prosecution said Wednesday.
Annalivia Harris, a forensic chemist with the Montana State Crime Lab, said she analyzed two gunshot residue kits - one for Rutherford and one for Jackson - submitted to the lab by crime scene investigators. She said her examination of the kits indicates whether a person was in an environment where gunshots were fired; it does not indicate whether the person with the residue actually fired a gun.
Harris said a number of things can hinder the collection of gunshot residue from a person, including contamination on the skin from sweat or blood, and the time elapsed from the gun being fired to the time the kit is administered.
Harris said her examination of Jackson's kit was inconclusive, turning up just one gunshot particle on his left hand. Jackson's right hand and face both tested negative for residue.
Harris said Rutherford's kit showed two particles on the deputy's right hand, three particles on his left hand and another three gunshot residue particles on his face.
Brian Bouley, a firearm and tool mark examiner at the State Crime Lab, said he examined both deputies' shirts and found no gunpowder residues present on either piece of clothing.
Bouley said he further examined the clothing to try to determine the distance from Rutherford's shirt to the muzzle of the gun that shot him.
Bouley said he test-fired the guns at pieces of clothing from different distances, concluding that the Glock service handguns quit depositing gunpowder residue on clothing at 30 inches. Bouley said his examination indicates that the bullet that killed Rutherford was fired from a minimum of 30 inches away.
Bouley also examined the cartridge magazines and shell casings from the crime scene. His analysis of the casings and their distinct markings showed that 10 shots were fired from Janis' gun and seven from Rutherford's. Using a diagram of the crime scene, which displayed where each piece of evidence was located, including the 17 shell casings, Bouley circled the casings in color-coded marker - orange for Janis, green for Rutherford - to show jurors where the casings from each gun were found.
Bouley continued his testimony this morning.
Over the course of the investigation, several other pieces of evidence were submitted to the State Crime Lab for different kinds of analysis and testing, including Rutherford's handgun, the two deputies' flashlights and the shirt Jackson was wearing on May 29, 2003.
Kevin Byrne, a forensic scientist at the state crime lab, said he analyzed and tested the four items for fingerprint impressions, but found none.
"It didn't surprise me," Byrne told jurors. "The items in question were contaminated with apparent blood and had a good deal of texture on their surface."
Byrne said textured surfaces or contaminates on a piece of evidence often make it impossible to gather fingerprints.
Debra Hewitt, a forensic scientist supervisor, performed further analysis on Jackson's shirt after Byrne's visual inspection. Hewitt told jurors that she used a dye test on a section of the inside of the shirt where she believed a footprint impression was located.
Hewitt said the testing showed that the footprint was consistent with the size and tread design of a pair of shoes belonging to Rutherford, that were also submitted to the lab after Rutherford's autopsy.
Blood samples from Jackson, Janis and Rutherford were also submitted to the State Crime Lab in Missoula. Sara Hansen, a forensic toxicologist, said Janis' blood tested negative for drugs and alcohol. She said Rutherford's blood samples tested positive for caffeine and the pain reliever acetaminophen, and negative for alcohol.
Hansen said Jackson's blood tested negative for all drugs but caffeine; he also had a blood- alcohol content of 0.08. Jackson's blood was drawn about 5:20 a.m. on May 30, 2003, seven hours after the shooting occurred.
When asked by prosecuting attorney Carlo Canty if she could determine Jackson's blood-alcohol level several hours prior to his blood being drawn, Hansen said she couldn't with any degree of accuracy.
Blaine County Sheriff Glenn Huestis took the stand Wednesday morning. Huestis told jurors that he did not have an active role processing the crime scene; instead he said his main concerns were Rutherford's family and Janis.
Huestis said that upon arriving at the crime scene on May 29, 2003, he realized that the Blaine County Sheriff's Office would need help investigating the shooting and processing the crime scene.
"It was too large a scene for us to handle and secure," he told jurors.
Huestis said the Havre Police Department responded to his call for assistance.
The prosecution could wrap up its case sometime today.