Thomas Ray Jackson Jr. was confined to a Snohomish County Jail cell for more than a year before he was released Wednesday night following a Superior Court jury verdict.
Had he been convicted of first-degree murder as charged, he would have faced decades behind bars. But the jury acquitted him.
Jackson burst into tears of relief at the verdict.
“I’m elated,” public defender Jon Scott said. “I’m just so happy this jury got to the right result.”
Jackson, 29, of Everett declined comment. “He’s pretty emotional right now,” Scott said.
He was accused of murder in the July 3, 2003, stabbing death of Eugene Bryant III of Everett during a fight in a south Everett bar. The fight started after Jackson began bothering Bryant’s girlfriend and refused to stop, according to evidence.
Jurors also rejected lesser crimes of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.
Scott argued that Jackson pulled his work knife after being threatened by Bryant and others. He said Jackson was afraid for his safety. Bryant died of a knife wound to the heart after the two struggled in the men’s restroom.
Jackson wound up with cuts on his hands and cheek that required medical attention.
Deputy prosecutor Randy Yates attempted to prove that Jackson was the aggressor.
The defendant intended to kill Bryant because Bryant had humiliated him earlier in the evening, Yates said. At the very least, Yates argued, Jackson was reckless and guilty of manslaughter because he pulled the knife during a volatile confrontation.
After the verdict was read Wednesday, jurors were asked to go back and deliberate whether or not it was a case of self-defense, as Scott had argued.
The jury unanimously concluded it was not self-defense.
A self-defense finding would have resulted in the state paying Jackson for his costs over the last year, including lost wages as a tree trimmer.
“It’s clear from the evidence he just used the knife to prevent an attack,” Scott said. “I think that’s what the jury saw. He’s just happy about the verdict. His happiness wasn’t diminished by the fact (the jury) said it wasn’t self-defense.”
Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.