Barroom slaying trial gets under way

A jury on Tuesday began to sort out whether a barroom brawl that ended in a fatal stabbing a year ago was murder or self-defense.

Thomas Ray Jackson Jr., 29, of Everett went on trial in Snohomish County Superior Court accused of first-degree murder in the July 3, 2003, death of Eugene Bryant III. Bryant was stabbed in the heart after he went to the defense of his girlfriend, according to deputy prosecutor Randy Yates.

Yates told jurors that Jackson repeatedly threatened to kill Bryant after a confrontation when Jackson wouldn’t stop tickling Bryant’s girlfriend. Patrons thought the disturbance had subsided, and Bryant even bought Jackson a beer, Yates said.

But when Bryant went to a nearby convenience store to buy cigarettes, he came back to find Jackson bothering his girlfriend again, Yates said.

When people gathered around, somebody yelled that Jackson had a knife, and the struggle ensued.

Bryant and Jackson wrestled their way inside the men’s restroom. A witness tried to get inside but the two men were blocking the door.

Bryant suddenly came out clutching his left side and bleeding. He walked out the front door and collapsed and died on the pavement in the 600 block of 112th Street SE.

Jackson later told police that he had just messed up his life, Yates said.

Jackson, however, was the victim of an attack, not the aggressor, public defender Jon Scott told the jurors.

He said the evidence will show that Bryant “took his shirt off to intimidate Mr. Jackson,” and the knife that the defendant carried was for his work, not to attack anyone. He displayed the knife because he was worried Bryant would seriously hurt or kill him, Scott said.

As for the alleged threats Jackson made, they were really his way of apologizing for trying to tickle Bryant’s girlfriend, Scott said. He repeated the apology so many times that it became annoying, he added.

Bryant and a friend of Bryant both attacked the defendant, he claimed. And when the struggle continued in the restroom, he was in a fight for his life. The defendant had cuts on his hand and cheek after the struggle.

The trial in Judge Kenneth Cowsert’s courtroom is expected to continue into next week.

Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or haley@heraldnet.com.

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