One of two brothers accused of killing a U.S. Forest Service officer who was pursuing them has testified that the brothers opened fire only after shots were fired at them.
In slow, emotional testimony Wednesday, Joseph Pratt, 27, of Sandpoint, insisted that he and brother James, 29, of Indian Hills, Colo., wanted to surrender to police the night of Jan. 11, after prosecutors allege they robbed a Sagle home, terrorized its occupants and briefly took a hostage. A manhunt eventually led to the death of Forest Service law enforcement officer Brent Jacobson, a Provo native.The brothers, however, fled in a car, and then on foot, when officers arrived at the house. Joseph Pratt described how he and his brother felt cold and hungry as they fled into the woods of north Idaho and eluded a manhunt for nearly a day.
He said the brothers finally stopped near some trees above a clearing in the snowy woods near Dover to get some rest and fell asleep the evening of Jan. 12.
Joseph Pratt said he was suddenly awakened by the crackle of police radios and then saw Deputy Sheriff Steve Barbieri and Jacobson nearby.
Pratt said one of the officers opened fire, someone else shot back and Jacobson fell dead.
Defense lawyers have tried to show that the Pratts could not have premeditated the shooting of Jacobson and that they shot in self-defense. If the jury buys that argument, the Pratts could escape conviction on a first-degree murder charge, which can carry the death penalty.
The Pratts also are accused of 16 other felonies stemming from the aborted house robbery and the ensuing chase.
Earlier Wednesday, Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson wrapped up his case by asking a sheriff's detective to describe details of evidence at the crime scene, such as where Jacobson's body was found.
Also testifying was Kelly McBride, a reporter for The Spokesman-Review and Spokane Chronicle newspapers who interviewed the Pratts shortly after their arrest. In a sworn deposition, McBride said the brothers confessed to the crimes and told her they shot only in self-defense.
The trial was to take a day off Thursday because of an illness to the wife of Presiding District Judge Watt Prather. Testimony could resume Friday.