By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
MISSOULA - A forensics expert testifying for the defense said Wednesday he believes the gunshot that killed Blaine County sheriff's deputy Joshua Rutherford was fired by another deputy and not by defendant Laurence Dean Jackson Jr.
Kay Sweeney said it appears the bullet was fired by deputy Loren Janis, grazed Jackson's right abdominal area and then hit Rutherford in the chest, leaving fatty particles from Jackson on Rutherford's shirt.
DNA analysis did not link the particles to Jackson, Sweeney said. He added that the results are inconclusive because the fat particles were covered with Rutherford's blood.
"(The DNA results) supported what I was afraid would happen," that Rutherford's blood contaminated the sample, Sweeney told jurors.
Jackson, 28, of Harlem is charged with one count of deliberate homicide and one count of attempted deliberate homicide in connection with a confrontation May 29, 2003, in a field near Harlem. Jackson is accused of shooting and killing Rutherford with a Glock .40-caliber service handgun prosecutors say he wrestled away from the deputy, then turned the gun on Janis, who returned fire. Janis was shot in the left arm.
Jackson's trial began Oct. 14 in Missoula. The defense began presenting its case Friday, after 11 days of testimony by the prosecution.
Sweeney, a former director of the Washington State Crime Lab who now owns his own forensic laboratory, was hired by the defense to review and analyze the evidence in the case and issue a report on his findings.
Sweeney said part of his examination of evidence centered on the bullet wound to Rutherford's left chest. He said autopsy and post-mortem photos showed the wound to be "elliptical," which he said indicates the bullet hit another object before it struck Rutherford. He said he examined Rutherford's shirt to see if the bullet carried and deposited anything on its fabric, and found fatty globules - which he said is a relatively rare find.
"It's not real common but I have seen it before," Sweeney told jurors.
Sweeney said he didn't find similar fatty tissues on the inside of Rutherford's shirt, which indicated that the globules came from a different source, like the wound on Jackson's right side.
Sweeney initially issued his report of findings by a deadline of Aug. 12, before he received DNA results from Forensic Analytical Laboratories in California. He said that despite the test results, which did not show a link between the fatty globules and Jackson, he still believes the particles came from Jackson's injury.
After examining photos of Janis' left arm, Sweeney said he concluded that the gunshot entry wound was located near the crease of Janis' forearm, which contradicts past witnesses' testimony - including that of Dr. Robert Schultz, an orthopedic surgeon who treated Janis in Billings.
Schultz testified that the entry wound was a smaller wound near Janis' elbow. Sweeney said he believed the opposite was true, with the elbow injury being the exit wound.
Sweeney said he based his findings on blood spatter evidence and the appearance of the wound near Janis' forearm crease. He said he found projectory blood spatters that went from left to right on a button on Janis' shirt. He said the blood appeared to be grainy, which is an indicator of "blowback" from a firearm discharge. Sweeney said blowback occurs as gasses and tissue rebound from the site of a gunshot entry.
Sweeney said he also analyzed a ring of dark material around the perimeter of the wound on Janis' forearm. He said the blast of a gun muzzle often leaves behind a similar ring, which is caused by the charring of tissue and soot deposit.
Schultz, who testified on Oct. 20 for the prosecution, said the dark ring of material around the wound on the interior of Janis' arm could be from gunpowder residue - which would indicate a close-range injury - or a ring of dead tissue.
Sweeney continued his testimony this morning. Closing arguments were to begin today.