Havre Daily News
CHINOOK - Thus far, Laurence Dean Jackson Jr. has sat motionless for much of the hearing to decide whether he faces life in prison or a death sentence.
But the 28-year-old convicted killer's demeanor broke under the weight of shed tears and pained words Tuesday afternoon in a Blaine County courtroom.
Jackson bowed his head and wiped his eyes while family members of slain Blaine County sheriff's deputy Josh Rutherford told how his death has destroyed their lives.
“You appointed yourself my son's judge, jury and executioner,” Rutherford's mother, Maxine Magpie Clifford, told Jackson. “You carried out your sentence. ... You never gave us a chance to say goodbye.”
“I miss my daddy, and I wish he was still alive,” fourth-grader Joshua D. Rutherford told Jackson before burying his face in his hands.
Last year, a Missoula jury found Jackson guilty of deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide after concluding he used Rutherford's own .40-caliber service pistol to kill the deputy and wound deputy Loren Janis the night of May 29, 2003. The two deputies were responding to a domestic disturbance call.
This week, defense attorneys are trying to persuade District Judge John McKeon to spare Jackson's life by showing the effect of prenatal alcohol exposure, alcoholism and other social and behavioral factors on his development.
Jackson's defense lawyers have said he was suffering an alcoholic blackout and does not recall the events of that night.
Rutherford's young son, mother, aunt and sister faced Jackson one by one, telling him he had done irreparable damage to their lives and the community. Many of the more than 40 people in the courtroom were moved to tears by their words.
Clifford said her own life has been affected by alcoholism. She said she drank while pregnant with Rutherford and continued drinking until her son was 11 years old.
“Alcoholism is not an excuse. It's a crutch, and you have played it well,” Clifford said.
“I loved my son,” she said. “He was brilliant. He was my boy. ... My best friend was suddenly taken from me.”
Rutherford's sister Tammy Rider told Jackson he robbed her family and the community of a good man. Rider choked back tears as she spoke of her brother, who was 18 months her junior.
Rutherford had four sons, she said, and was a good influence on her daughters and a number of other children.
“There's not many male father figures around us,” Rider said. “And he was that to a lot of people.
“The hurt is never going to heal,” she added.
Rider ended her statements by asking Jackson: “You can't even look at me in the eye, can you?”
When the victim's family members finished speaking, defense attorney Ed Sheehy retrieved a tissue, placed a hand on Jackson's shoulder and spoke to him.
Prosecutors opened and completed their presentation Tuesday. Defense attorneys called two witnesses and will continue their presentation today. The prosecution will have an opportunity to offer rebuttal.
After the sentencing hearing for the homicide charge ends, a second hearing will be held to consider sentencing for the attempted homicide charge.
During Tuesday's testimony, state probation officer Tanya Nugent discussed the presentence investigation she compiled, which includes information on Jackson's lengthy criminal history.
Nugent detailed about 30 Fort Belknap tribal court convictions over the course of seven years, including charges of receiving stolen property, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and domestic abuse.
Jackson spent two years in Montana State Prison for a felony charge of assault and spent time in federal custody for a charge of theft.
Nugent said Jackson was written up twice by state prison personnel for violations including failure to perform his duties and getting into a fight with another prisoner.
Jackson has been cited more than a half-dozen times since he was placed in the Hill County Detention Center following his most recent arrest for offenses including communication with female inmates and having extra dinnerware in his cell. Most recently, on Oct. 4, he and two other inmates jumped repeatedly on a table and managed to unbolt it from the jail's floor.
Defense witness Dr. William Stratford, a forensic psychiatrist who testified during the trial, said Jackson may suffer from the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. He said Jackson does not exhibit signs of the more serious fetal alcohol syndrome, but does show symptoms of fetal alcohol effects.
Stratford said there is a link between prenatal alcohol exposure and antisocial personality disorders. Some people with such disorders commit crimes, and some of those crimes are violent, he said.
The defense's presentation was set to continue today with the testimony of Craig Haney, a psychologist who has spent 30 years studying how different factors in people's lives lead to crime and how incarceration affects prisoners.