Havre Daily News
CHINOOK - The mother of slain Blaine County sheriff's deputy Joshua Rutherford said she wants a judge to sentence his convicted killer to life in prison, rather than the death sentence. “The death penalty is an easy way out. I want him to suffer,” Maxine Magpie Clifford said Thursday.
Clifford spoke during an interview after Thursday's court hearing on the sentence for Laurence Dean Jackson Jr., convicted last year of killing Rutherford with the deputy's own gun as the two struggled in a field near Harlem. The hearing is continuing today in Chinook.
Clifford said she would never recommend the death penalty because she is a Catholic. She also said the administrationof sodium pentothal and muscle relaxants to death row inmates at the time of execution numbs their pain.
Clifford won't be allowed to tell state District Judge John McKeon her opinion. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling says victims' family members cannot make sentencing recommendations in court.
Clifford also doesn't take much stock in the defense argument that Jackson's upbringing reduce his culpability for Rutherford's death. Defense experts have testified that Jackson's early exposure to abuse and alcoholism are mitigating factors that should prevent the judge from sentencing him to death.
“You're always responsible for your actions,” Clifford said. “Your childhood is never an excuse to commit a crime. If that was true, Josh would've killed Larry.”
Earlier this week, Clifford told Jackson in the Chinook courtroom that she drank while pregnant with her son and continued having alcohol problems until he was 11 years old.
In Thursday's interview, she said the pain of losing her son will never stop.
On some days she is able to function. “Other days, you don't leave your house and you hide in the closet,” she said. “The loss of my son will never lessen for me.
“The death of my son has taken my basic home from me,” she added. “I can never live comfortably in (Fort Belknap) again.”
Clifford said none of Jackson's family members attended the trial, and she was upset that family and friends testified Thursday about his upbringing and character.
A friend of Jackson told the court how she and her father visited him in jail, burned sage and prayed with him.
Clifford said no one was able to do that for her son.
“Nobody smudged Josh before he died,” she said. “He died in that wheat field alone, and nobody should have to do that.”