The prosecution and defense in a murder trial presented their closing statements Friday morning, leaving the jury to deliberate the verdict. As of approximately 6:30 p.m. Friday jurors were still deliberating, after first appearing to reach a verdict before returning to deliberation.
Fenton Jacobs, 42, is being tried for charges stemming from a fatal stabbing incident more than three years ago that resulted in the death of William Scott Campbell.
Jacobs is charged with felony first-degree murder, two counts of felony second-degree murder, two counts of felony third-degree assault, first-degree harassment and resisting arrest.
Nicholas Ambrose, leading Jacobs’ defense, posited that Jacobs killed Campbell out of self defense and that the investigation into the incident was incomplete, not meeting the requirement that the prosecution is required to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.
“What happens when the prosecution doesn’t give you all the pieces to puzzle?” Ambrose asked of the jury during his closing. “How can they come before you and ask you to convict someone of first-degree murder if they don’t give you all the pieces of the puzzle?”
Jacobs, who was out with his brother and several others on South Franklin Street during the evening of the stabbing, did not seek a confrontation with Campbell, Ambrose said, but found himself hounded and harassed by Campbell and Campbell’s wife after insulting her near the Lucky Lady.
“We have the video showing Scott Campbell coming after my client not once, not twice but three times,” Ambrose said.
After the fatal encounter, Jacobs was detained by Juneau Police Department Officer Sean Ashapanek and offers several explanations for the encounter, including that he, Jacobs, was defending himself from Campbell. Ambrose also pointed out how the pattern of a side wound and the hole in Campbell’s clothing could have been caused if Campbell had been throwing a punch at Jacobs.
“The problem with the state’s case from Day 1 was that it was open and shut from the moment Officer Ashapanek found a knife on Mr. Jacobs,” Ambrose said. “That’s where it stopped.”
Prosecutor Katherine Lybrand, who gave the state’s closing statement, drew a markedly different interpretation of the evening.
“The defendant wasn’t in fear, he wasn’t protecting himself. He was looking for a fight that night, he was looking for a target,” Lybrand said. “The defendant was out to hurt someone, to find an outlet for all that anger boiling up inside.”
Lybrand pointed to earlier encounters where Jacobs allegedly threatened some passersby in the Foodland IGA parking lot before he came downtown and bumped into Jacobs. Lybrand also pointed out Campbell’s role in attempting to calm his wife down. Lybrand also played footage of Jacobs before the encounter where Jacobs can be heard screaming and railing against the police.
“You saw that anger spike again and again before it exploded on Scott. After all those spikes, the anger erupted,” Lybrand said. “The defendant was the only one who had the power to prevent this tragedy.”
In Lybrand’s telling of events, Jacobs chose to engage Campbell before stabbing him several times, including mid-abdomen, causing severe internal trauma leading to Campbell’s death.
“We saw the defendant run after Scott with a knife,” Lybrand said. “He provoked Scott. He is not entitled to call it self-defense.”
The abdominal stabbing was particularly severe, requiring the removal of Campbell’s spleen and parts of his intestine as the doctors attempted to stabilize Campbell enough to medevac him to Seattle, Lybrand said. Campbell would later die during the medevac. Jacobs would go on to repeatedly kick the doors of the squad car he was detained in as seen in bodycam footage shown during the trial, spitting blood and saliva at officers.
Ambrose also raised the possibility that Campbell might have had his own knife, though no knife was found, saying that if it was dropped, it could have been picked up by a passerby before the crime scene was fully secured. Lybrand said there was no evidentiary support for that.
“This is complicated. It’s big. There’s lots of moving parts,” Ambrose said. “Clearly, there was some miscommunication and some things that didn’t happen.”
The jury retired to deliberate the verdict early Friday afternoon. In some trials, the jury returns the verdict very quickly, while in others, deliberations can go on for days.
“This could be one of the most important decisions you ever make,” Ambrose said. “This is the kind of decision you can’t go back on. So it’s important you get it right.”