By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
MISSOULA - Just minutes after a jury found Laurence Dean Jackson Jr. guilty of killing Blaine County sheriff's deputy Joshua Rutherford, Rutherford's mother was on the phone with friends and loved ones, relaying the jury's verdict.
Maxine Magpie Clifford of Denver and her daughter Tammy Rider of Harlem clenched hands Friday night as the jury returned with a verdict, less than six hours after beginning deliberations.
The jury found Jackson, 27, of Harlem guilty of deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide in the slaying of Rutherford and wounding of deputy Loren Janis in a shootout on May 29, 2003.
Clifford and Rider embraced and wept as District Judge John McKeon read Jackson's verdict. Clifford said the trial left her with mixed emotions.
"There's no joy in this guilty verdict because my son is still gone," Clifford said.
Throughout the three-week trial, Clifford sat in the courtroom wearing a button, bearing Rutherford's smiling face, on her shirt. She said the memories of her son helped her stay strong throughout the lengthy trial.
"Josh was a warrior. He died a warrior. There's no greater honor for him," Clifford said, her eyes tearing.
The jury also determined that Jackson killed a peace officer in the line of duty, so Jackson may possibly face the death penalty.
McKeon, who will decide whether Jackson should be condemned to death, scheduled a sentencing hearing for Feb. 16 in Chinook. Jackson will be held at the Hill County Detention Center until the sentencing.
Blaine County Attorney Yvonne Laird and defense attorney Ed Sheehy delivered closing arguments Friday morning.
Laird asked jurors to reflect on the choices and decisions made by Jackson and the deputies on May 29, 2003. She said Jackson chose to drink heavily and ransack the home of Mari Blackbird, his girlfriend at the time, who called the sheriff's office for help. Laird said because of Jackson's choices, Rutherford and Janis made a decision to respond to Blackbird's call, which resulted in a bloody shootout in a field near Harlem.
Prosecutors alleged that Jackson wrestled Rutherford's Glock .40-caliber duty weapon from him and shot him in the chest, then turned the gun on Janis, who returned fire. Janis was wounded in the left arm.
Laird discounted the defense's argument that Janis accidentally shot and killed Rutherford as he returned fire.
"There's no evidence of this. This theory is completely unsupported," she told jurors. "Circumstantial evidence shows that it was in fact the defendant that fired the shots that killed deputy Rutherford and injured deputy Janis."
Sheehy argued that the prosecution failed to prove that Jackson shot Rutherford's gun.
"It's not our job to prove Larry Jackson's innocence. They have to prove his guilt, and they haven't done that," Sheehy told jurors.
Sheehy said the prosecution's testimony was inconsistent. He said Janis - the only eyewitness at the shooting - changed his story multiple times, making his testimony unreliable.
"As a trained officer, he's supposed to be able to put down the facts," Sheehy said. "This case comes down to whether you want to believe him or not. The only person who could tell you what happened out there is Larry Jackson and he does not know."
Two psychiatrists testified that Jackson was in an alcohol blackout during the shooting and remembers nothing of the night. Jackson did not testify in his defense.
Laird argued that Janis was a reliable witness. She said in addition to Janis being an officer, he was also a victim of a violent assault, and couldn't be expected to remember every little thing.
"A lot of things happened really quickly in a short period of time," she told jurors. "We're not required to prove each and every thing that happened out there in that field."
Janis did testify that he never saw Jackson with Rutherford's gun. A partial DNA profile, which couldn't eliminate Jackson as a contributor, was collected from the area around the gun's trigger. No fingerprints were found on the gun.
Sheehy said the prosecution's case wasn't based on evidence.
"Most of the time in criminal cases, defense lawyers are accused of saying could've, would've, but we haven't done that in this case they have, with nothing to support it but conjecture," Sheehy told jurors.
The defense had argued that Janis fired a bullet that grazed Jackson's waist before hitting Rutherford in the chest. Forensic scientist Kay Sweeney, an expert witness for the defense, testified that he found fat globules around the entry wound on Rutherford's shirt, which he said were likely from Jackson's waist area. DNA analysis of the fatty tissues showed Rutherford as a contributor, however.
Jackson's trial was moved to Missoula because of pretrial publicity in north-central Montana.