By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
MISSOULA - Jurors won't get to hear some statements made by Laurence Jackson Jr. to police following his arrest after the fatal shooting of a Blaine County sheriff's deputy last year, but the evidence, sealed for months, has been released to the media.
Jackson, 27, of Harlem is charged with one count of deliberate homicide and one count of attempted deliberate homicide in the slaying of Blaine County sheriff's deputy Joshua Rutherford and wounding of deputy Loren Janis on May 29, 2003, during a shootout in a field near Harlem.
The prosecution alleges that Jackson wrestled Rutherford's gun from him and shot him in the chest, then shot Janis in the arm, after the two responded to a complaint about a domestic disturbance.
Jackson's trial began last week in Missoula.
District Judge John McKeon last spring granted a request by Jackson's attorneys - Bob Peterson of Havre and Ed Sheehy of Helena - to suppress statements made by Jackson to Havre police Lt. George Tate. Havre police had been brought in to investigate the shooting in Blaine County because it involved Blaine County sheriff's deputies.
McKeon also agreed to close an April 13 suppression hearing in order to prevent potential jurors from reading about Jackson's statements.
Jurors in the Jackson trial were sworn in Wednesday. McKeon then approved a request by the Havre Daily News to release the sealed evidence.
The evidence contains 140 pages of documents, including the defense's motion to suppress evidence, transcripts of Jackson's interviews with Tate, and medical records of Jackson's visit to Northern Montana Hospital following his arrest.
According to the documents, McKeon granted Sheehy's request to suppress Jackson's statements because Tate interviewed him even though Jackson had not knowledgeably waived his Miranda rights.
Tate talked to Jackson during the early morning hours of May 30, 2003.
The defense claims that Jackson was extremely intoxicated during the shooting incident and during his interview with Tate. Jackson's attorney said Tate could have made Jackson take a breathalyzer test and but didn't at the time of the interview.
After introducing himself as a police lieutenant, Tate read Jackson his rights. When asked if he understood his rights, Jackson replied, "I don't have no rights. I don't have no rights so I'm, I'm forced to regardless if I had to," according to the transcript of the interview.
Tate then asked Jackson repeatedly if he understood his Miranda rights and wanted to answer a few questions for the police.
"I have to. I have to. It's not my choice. Whatever you ask, I have to tell the truth. Because it's not my choice," Jackson said during the tape-recorded interview.
Jackson, who was on probation at the time of the shooting for an aggravated assault conviction in 1999, indicated he felt he had to talk to the police because he was still on probation.
"I can't (expletive) lie to you because if I do, (expletive) I'll just go back for the rest of my time. And plus on top of whatever you give me for whatever I did. And I didn't do nothing. It wasn't me," Jackson said.
When asked about the events that unfolded during the night, Jackson said that he'd been hanging out with a friend who had a gun and who gave the gun to Jackson. Jackson said he shot at his friend twice and threw the gun away. Then he said he actualy ran with the gun still in his hand.
Later in the interview, he said that his friend shot at officers and then dropped the gun and ran. Jackson then picked up the gun and ran in the other direction, he said.
" I was running and then shooting backwards. Because I (expletive) heard shots firing at me. And I (expletive) was running and I was ducking," Jackson said.
Tate then asked Jackson if he took one of the deputy's guns during an altercation with them.
"Well, it's my word against theirs, so. Anyway I did, I guess," Jackson said, according to the transcript. "I don't really care. Because I'm the convict and I'm the one who's gonna be in trouble for it so. It's all my fault."
According to the transcript, Jackson said he fired rounds from the gun three or four times.
Throughout the interview Jackson complained that his handcuffs were hurting him. Officers loosened the cuffs a couple of times.
The interview lasted about 20 minutes. When Tate attempted to interview Jackson again 10 hours later, Jackson refused to answer any questions. In his report about that talk, Tate said Jackson indicated that he did not know who Tate was and he didn't remember having spoken with him earlier.
While Tate read Jackson his Miranda rights several times before the first interview, Jackson was not presented with a Havre Police Department form outlining his rights, which he could read and sign, acknowledging his right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning and waiving those rights.
Sheehy argued that Jackson's earlier statement should be suppressed because Jackson's insistence that he had no rights, even after Tate read him the Miranda rights, indicates that Jackson was not able to give a knowing and intelligent waiver of his rights.
McKeon agreed. "Defendant showed confusion about his Miranda rights, especially his right to remain silent. Defendant clearly and consistently expressed his feeling that he felt compelled to respond to questioning," McKeon wrote in his order granting the defendant's motion to suppress.
The prosecution argued that Jackson understood his Miranda rights, having heard them several times from Tate.
Prosecuting attorneys cited Jackson's history with the criminal justice system.
"For an adult of twenty-five years of age, the defendant had an almost overwhelming degree of practical experience as a first-hand participant in the criminal justice system," Blaine County Attorney Yvonne Laird wrote in the prosecution's response to the defense's motion to suppress.
Included in the sealed evidence are copies of Jackson's medical records from a visit to Northern Montana Hospital on May 30, 2003, for treatment for injuries suffered the night of the shooting. Jackson was treated for a small laceration on the forehead and the back of his head.
The prosecution is continuing its case in court today. Janis took the stand last week. The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.