Defense in Loesch murder trial blames co-defendant

A defense lawyer for Jamaal Freeman, accused of killing Kingfield resident Mark Loesch Sept. 12, 2007, grilled co-defendant Donald Jackson during cross-examination May 14 in Hennepin County District Court, trying place the blame squarely on his shoulders.

Jackson pleaded guilty a year ago to aggravated robbery for his role in the crime, in which Loesch was robbed and beaten to death a mile and a half away from his home after leaving around 10:30 p.m. for a ride on his bike. Jackson testified May 14 that he was selling marijuana near Cup Foods at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue when a man on a bike approached him looking to buy $40 worth of crack.

Jackson said he told the man he didn’t have any crack, but he knew others that might be able to get it. The cyclist said he’d “be back to see,” Jackson said. After the encounter, Jackson said Freeman, who he had seen and invited out earlier in the day, approached him from across the street and said he needed money. Jackson said he told Freeman about the cyclist because “that’s where the money was at.”

“I said he was running around here somewhere,” Jackson testified.

The cyclist then returned and Freeman asked Jackson to help rob him, Jackson said. Freeman asked for help three times before Jackson, who had just been released from a robbery-related prison stay, agreed to participate, Jackson said.

Freeman then led the cyclist into a nearby residential area, where he beat him with a red and silver bat and robbed him as Jackson watched from behind a bush on the side of the house, Jackson said.

Defense attorney Emmett Donnelly tried to get Jackson to tell a different story — that the murder and robbery was a one-man job that Jackson committed alone. He got Jackson to admit that he lied under oath about selling drugs in previous testimony and that he knew there would be harsher consequences for him if he were found to have used a weapon, participated in the robbery or shared money from the crime.

“You had to have it clear in your head what you were going to tell police,” Donnelly said.

He also argued that Jackson knew the details of the assault too well to have been hiding behind the nearly solid bush he pointed out in a photograph shown to the jury. And the lawyer tried to link Jackson to the Bloods gang, affiliates of which the defense argues are trying to pin the crime on Freeman.

Jackson said May 14 he runs with members of the Bloods gang, though he’s not a member himself. The location of the killing was in Bloods territory and David Tyus, who worked as an informant for police and tipped them off to Freeman’s involvement, said in testimony Wednesday he was in the gang.

Jackson also said he was close with then-12-year-old Kevin Dickerson, who lives at the house where the murder took place.

Defense attorneys argued that a T-ball bat found in Jackson’s uncle’s car was the murder weapon. It had DNA from multiple people on it including Jackson, but not Freeman or Loesch. Jackson said he used the bat playing with his cousins and it was always kept in the car, but Donnelly didn’t let that fly.

“It’s not sitting there between the passenger seat and the door because somebody’s playing baseball with it, right?” he asked.

After a long pause, Jackson said no.

“It’s there because you could use it as a weapon if you needed it, right?” Donnelly persisted.

“Yeah,” Jackson said.

Jackson also admitted to knowing where other weapons are stashed around the neighborhood.

At the end of cross-examination, Donnelly pressured Jackson about whether he felt remorse about the death. He and Freeman said they went to Augies Bourbon Street Cabaret Downtown after the crime.

“You felt bad for this guy you left twitching in the yard?” he said, referring to Jackson’s earlier comment that Loesch was shaking on the ground after he was hit.

“You left him lying in that yard to die, right?” Donnelly asked.

“Yeah,” Jackson said.

Lt. Richard Zimmerman, an investigator at the time of the murder who now leads the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide unit, testified May 14 that Jackson told him in a 2007 interview that he watched Freeman commit the murder with a red bat. Other details from that earlier interview matched the story Jackson told in court. 

A red bat was never recovered. 

Loesch was a software engineer and father of four whose seemingly random death caused a community outcry and controvery over whether the incident was a drug deal gone wrong. One police sergeant was tranferred after contradicting information from his supervisor about the incident.

Loesch’s wife, Samantha Loesch, said he did struggle with chemical dependancy, specifically with crack-cocaine, but he successfully copmpleted rehabilitation in 2001. The medical examiner found no illegal substances in his body after he dieed.  

He had a couple relapses afterward, she said, but he was doing well after the birth of their youngest daughter four years ago. 

The trial continues today.