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Judge moves Jackson homicide trial to Missoula

A man accused of fatally shooting a Blaine County sheriff's deputy will stand trial in Missoula next June.

The trial of Lawrence Dean Jackson Jr., 25, will start June 7, little more than a year after deputy Joshua Rutherford was shot to death in a field outside Harlem. Jackson is charged with one count of deliberate homicide in Rutherford's death, and one count of attempted deliberate homicide in the wounding of deputy Loren Janis. Jackson is being held without bond in the Hill County Detention Center.

Blaine County Attorney Yvonne Laird and assistant state attorney general Carlo Canty are prosecuting the case. Court documents show they plan to seek the death penalty.

District Judge John McKeon set the trial date and ordered the proceeding be held in Missoula during an omnibus hearing Monday in the Blaine County Courthouse in Chinook. The trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

McKeon ordered a change of venue at the request of both prosecutors and Jackson's attorneys. The two parties filed a joint motion Sept. 17 that said the move was warranted considering the small population of Blaine County, the nature of the charges, and extensive publicity given the case.

The two sides could not find a mutually agreeable venue and asked McKeon to select one. McKeon's selection was the top choice of the defense. Prosecutors had requested either Miles City or Deer Lodge.

Also on Monday, defense attorneys Bob Peterson of Havre and Ed Sheehy of Helena waived Jackson's right to a speedy trial in order to allow more time for defense experts to examine physical evidence that will be used against Jackson at trial.

McKeon gave prosecutors until Jan. 12 to turn over the evidence to Jackson's attorneys. He also ordered the prosecutors to give Jackson's attorneys his jail and prison records, written policies and manuals from the Blaine County Sheriff's Office, and personnel records for Rutherford and Janis.

Another document filed later on Monday said prosecutors unintentionally mislead both the judge and Jackson's attorneys during Monday's hearing about the existence of an audiotape of a Havre police interview of Jackson following Jackson's arrest.

According to a notice of mistake filed by prosecutors, the "State mistakenly informed the Court and counsel for the defense that an audio-tape of Havre Police Lt. George Tate's interview of the defendant, Lawrence Dean Jackson Jr., did not exist."

The document said prosecutors were informed after Monday's hearing that the tape does exist and is being held in the evidence locker of the Havre Police Department. A transcript and copy of the tape were being made and would be provided to the defense today, the document said.

Jackson was arrested May 29 shortly after a shooting in a field along U.S. Highway 2 near Harlem. Jackson is accused of wresting Rutherford's service handgun away from the deputy and using it to shoot him once in the chest. According to the charging document, Jackson then turned the gun on Janis, shooting him in the arm.

The 28-year-old Rutherford, a father of four, had been called from his home to respond to a domestic disturbance. The charging document said Rutherford chased Jackson through the field and engaged him in a struggle before being killed.

Jackson is registered in Blaine County as a violent offender. He served time in prison after being convicted of aggravated assault in 1999.

 

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