Havre Daily News
CHINOOK - There was a time when Julia Doney, then a Head Start teacher, would spray her stomach with perfume every day.
She wanted to give one of her troubled students a place to bury his face when he ran off the bus and into her waiting arms.
Doney, now president of the Fort Belknap tribal council, spoke Friday to that student, his family and the people he hurt.
Laurence Dean Jackson Jr. is no longer a pudgy 3-year-old kid in need of a hug. He's a 28-year-old man waiting to learn whether District Judge John McKeon will sentence him to die for killing a Blaine County sheriff's deputy.
In compassionate and tearful testimony Friday at Jackson's sentencing hearing, Doney described how a young Jackson would clutch her daily when he arrived at Head Start.
“I would hold him so tightly, and we would hang onto each other. ... I didn't want to let him go,” she said.
“I wish I could hold onto you again today,” she told Jackson.
Doney, who is Jackson's father's first cousin, said she regrets not doing more to intervene in his troubled youth. She offered apologies to the family of Joshua Rutherford, the deputy who was killed in a wheat field near Harlem during a struggle with Jackson on May 29, 2003.
“As a family member and as a member of our community, I felt like I let Larry down, and I let Josh Rutherford's family down,” she said.
“I personally want to apologize to (Rutherford's sons) because their dad is not here to watch them play basketball. I want to apologize to Maxine (Magpie Clifford, Rutherford's mother) for our family hurting your family,” Doney added. “Josh died doing something that he loved. The police force lost a great man when Josh Rutherford died.”
A Missoula jury last year convicted Jackson of deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide for killing Rutherford with the deputy's own .40-caliber Glock pistol and wounding deputy Loren Janis after the two officers responded to a domestic disturbance call.
Jackson faces a possible death sentence for Rutherford's slaying and life in prison for the attempted homicide conviction.
Doney said she knew Jackson's parents often got drunk and got into fights. She said she spoke to Jackson's father, but should have pressed harder to change things in the home. The family knew the younger Jackson was in trouble, she said.
“We as a family should have done more,” Doney told Jackson. “We knew you were on a path of destruction. We failed you ....”
Doney said Jackson “was dead before he was born.”
“He didn't stand a chance in life,” she said.
She decried the abuse of alcohol on the reservation and said the Fort Belknap community needs to change. Lawanda Jackson described growing up with Wing, their father and Wing's second husband. She told of a life filled with violence, abuse, abandonment and alcoholism.
“It was hard to tell ... if she really cared about us,” Lawanda Jackson said of their mother.
She said she had a close relationship with Jackson, her younger brother. Both siblings struggled with alcoholism, beginning in their teens. Lawanda said she eventually sought treatment.
After he was released from federal custody, where he was held for a theft conviction, Jackson tried to quit drinking. That didn't last long, she said.
Jackson's defense lawyers have maintained that he was in an alcoholic blackout on the night he struggled with Rutherford and Janis.
Larry Jackson Sr. joined other family members in testifying that Wing drank during her pregnancy with Jackson. Several expert defense witnesses testified that Jackson suffers from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which would impair his ability to judge right and wrong.
Jackson Sr. said he and Wing often drank and fought while their children were young.
Blaine County Attorney Yvonne Laird pressed Jackson Sr. about a 1998 fight with his son. Both men were drinking, and Jackson ended up biting his father and hitting him in the head. The elder Jackson was taken to a hospital for treatment, and medical personnel contacted law enforcement.
The incident resulted in one of Jackson's numerous convictions in Fort Belknap tribal court.
Jackson Sr. said he hadn't thought his son should be held responsible for that incident.
“He was drunk,” he said. “He was acting in a crazy way.”
Laird asked him if it were OK to act that way.
“No,” Jackson Sr. said.
Defense attorneys were set to call one more witness today in the sentencing hearing for the homicide conviction. A second sentencing hearing will be held for the attempted homicide conviction.
If the hearings are not completed today, they will be postponed until Wednesday. McKeon said he has a prior commitment Tuesday in another court that he cannot break.
“We have got to do more, so that another one of our young men isn't sitting where this one is today,” Doney said. “This could be any one of our sons.”
“This drinking has got to stop,” she added. “Alcohol never did anything good for anybody.”
Rutherford was a hero, Doney said. She suggested creating a memorial scholarship in his name.
“He didn't hesitate. He left his family (to answer a call). He never came home,” Doney said. “Maxine, your son will live on forever, because of all the heroic things he did.”
Also Friday, the defense called Jackson's sister and father to the witness stand and presented a letter from Jackson's mother, Savinna Rose Wing.
In her letter, Wing said she made “many mistakes” in raising her children and said she feels “responsible” for Jackson's life.