The following story is reprinted with permission from The Daily World of Aberdeen, Wash.


TACOMA, Wash. - The fate of Martin Jones is with a jury.

Several weeks of trial ended Thursday in the case against a Seaview man accused of trying to shoot and kill a Washington State Patrol trooper as attorneys presented their closing arguments.

After weeks of testimony, Assistant Attorney General John Hillman told the jury they must now decide if Jones shot Trooper Scott Johnson in the back of the head along a dark Long Beach highway.

"It's been a long journey," Hillman said.

Jones, a 46-year-old heavy machinery operator, faces a charge of attempted first-degree murder for the Feb. 13, 2010, shooting along Highway 103

Jones has testified he had no involvement in the shooting and pleaded not guilty.

Johnson has recovered and since been elected sheriff of Pacific County. The trial, which ran seven weeks, was moved to Pierce County, in part over concerns local publicity of the shooting and Johnson's election would bias a jury.

Hillman argued Thursday the witnesses and physical evidence clearly point to Jones as the only person with the means and motive to commit this "most cowardly act" against Johnson.

"The defendant set out that night," Hillman said. "He armed himself with a .22 pistol. ... He put it to the back of Trooper Johnson's head and he fired."

Johnson was shot while processing a van belonging to Jones' wife, Susan, after she was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

The former trooper has identified Jones in court as the man that approached him along Highway 103 that night. The man later snuck up behind Johnson and shot him. Johnson said he saw Jones again as he returned fire at the shooter.

"Trooper Johnson saw who did it and he came in here and told you," Hillman told the jury.

Hillman said medical experts testified the bullet, believed to be a relatively low-powered .22 caliber short round, hit the thickest part of Johnson's skull and shattered.

"Fortunately it fragmented and didn't penetrate his brain and kill him," Hillman said.

Investigators have matched a .22 bullet shell found at the scene to a box of ammunition in Jones' bedroom. Hillman said machine markings show the bullets were stamped by the same machine back in 1999.

"It is no coincidence," he said.

Jones told investigators he knew his wife had gotten pulled over, but he made a few calls and returned to sleep after failing to get a hold of her. He maintains he never left the house.

Hillman argued phone records from Jones' home and cell show he never went back to sleep like he told police. Records show him making and receiving calls every minute or two, at least 18 calls between midnight and 1 a.m. But much of the time he used his cell while calls to his home phone went unanswered.

"What's extremely important here are those cell phone records," Hillman said. "The defendant is constantly on the cell phone. ... The defendant does not use his home phone again for 81 minutes."

Hillman wonders aloud what he could be talking about during all of these phone calls.

Prosecutors suggested Jones ran home afterward and disposed of his gun and clothes in the nearby ocean or sand dunes. Hillman noted a K-9 tracking dog followed a scent from the scene to within a block of the Jones home.

The assistant attorney general acknowledged it may be difficult to believe Jones would shoot a trooper over his wife getting arrested, but people do horrible things for minor reasons all the time. He said Jones is the only one with the slightest motive.

"Look at it through the prism of common sense," he said. "(Johnson) doesn't have any doubt about it and you shouldn't either."

Defense attorney David Allen said one of his largest concerns is that the weight of trying a man accused of shooting a law enforcement officer will make the jury err on the side of locking him up just in case. He urged them to remain skeptical and consider the possibility of imprisoning an innocent man.

"The state has to do more than come up with conjecture," he said, adding, "It's only fair ... the state should be required to prove those charges."

Allen said the state has put together a lot of information showing Jones could have committed the crime, but none proving he did do it.

"I would say that's just ludicrous," he said. "There is absolutely no motive."

Allen described Jones as a hard-working and law-abiding citizen with no criminal history or reason to upend his comfortable life in Seaview. He said prosecutors presented no evidence Jones had any anger issues or hatred for police.

"Who would do this?" Allen asked. "Beyond all things it's going to be somebody who hates police. ... No sane person would do that. Only a crazy person would do that and that's not Martin Jones."

Allen said Jones and his family had lived through a nightmare since his arrest two days after the shooting. Jones' efforts to cooperate ended with him as the lone suspect.

"We've shown you that Marty Jones is innocent," he said.

Allen challenged the bullet match, by explaining as many as 50 million bullets could have been punched by that same machine. He also alleged investigators may have mishandled the ammo box and lost some of the bullets.

The attorney said the phone records show Jones on his cell phone, but do not prove he left his house. Allen wondered how Jones could make so many calls if he was busy shooting a state trooper.

"It did not happen the way the state's witnesses have tried to spin it," he said.

Most of all, Allen challenged Johnson's identification of Jones as the shooter. The attorney said Johnson had a perception in his mind that the Jones van was tied to the case, later specifically asking for a photo of Jones. Allen argued Johnson's expectations prejudiced the entire identification process.

The defense also argued tow truck driver George Hill, who witnessed the shooting, told multiple investigators Jones did not commit the crime. Hill later testified he didn't get a good look at the man.

"Something is rotten about all of this," Allen said. "Be very skeptical and suspicious."

"This will be one of the most important decisions of your life," he added, noting it is certainly the most important of Jones' life.

At the end of the day, Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan thanked the audience and the attorneys for their courtesy and patience throughout the long trial.

"The court appreciates counsel on both sides," she said. "We appreciate that professionalism."

The jury was sent to deliberations late Thursday afternoon and scheduled to resume Friday morning.

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