Neighbor not guilty of attempted murder

Defendant used machete in self-defense

A Grand Court jury deliberated less than a half-hour on Wednesday before finding Mark Allen Jackson not guilty of attempting to murder his West Bay neighbor, Ronald Baxter Argenbright. 

By a similar unanimous verdict, the five men and two women of the panel also found him not guilty of wounding with intent to inflict serious bodily harm. 

Mr. Jackson admitted hitting Mr. Argenbright twice with a machete on June 2, 2014, but said he did so in self-defense. 

The defendant’s videotaped interview with police the next day was played for the jury. Justice Charles Quin said he thought this was the first trial in which a jury was able to see a defendant as he was questioned and gave his answers; interviews in other trials have been audio only or typed transcripts read aloud by the prosecutor. 

The two witnesses to the incident that resulted in injuries to Mr. Argenbright both told the court that he went onto Mr. Jackson’s property and began digging with a pickax, trying to break up some pipes. 

Mr. Jackson at the time was in his greenhouse, using a machete for weeding and pruning pawpaw trees. When he became aware of Mr. Argenbright’s presence on his property, he approached to ask what he was doing. 

Mr. Jackson said in his interview that he expected the other man to straighten up and answer him. Instead, Mr. Argenbright swung the pickax at him. Mr. Jackson said he instinctively stepped back and swung the machete, hitting the side of Mr. Argenbright’s head. He said Mr. Argenbright swung the pickax at him again, and he swung his machete again. Mr. Argenbright then fell to the ground. 

The witnesses confirmed that Mr. Argenbright had swung first, and that the whole incident had happened very fast. 

Medical evidence read by Crown counsel Scott Wainwright showed that the injured man sustained lacerations to the neck and head. Two lacerations to the back of the head were each 20 centimeters [almost 8 inches] in length. There were extensive skull fractures and brain hemorrhage. Mr. Argenbright underwent surgery and then was transferred to Miami for rehabilitation. Although the injuries were significant, the doctor believed he would make a full recovery. 

In his summary of the evidence to the jury, Justice Quin noted that by December 2014, Mr. Argenbright still had a mild problem with balance but was expected to make a full recovery. He had no memory of the events of June 2, 2014. 

It was agreed by the Crown and defense attorney Nicholas Dixey that there had been a dispute between the two men about a driveway in 2004. Mr. Argenbright had called police to say he was going to kill somebody. He did in fact hit Mr. Jackson with a baseball bat, inflicting an injury that required hospital treatment. He pleaded guilty, was fined $2,000 and ordered to pay Mr. Jackson $1,000. In that same incident, Mr. Jackson had punched Mr. Argenbright, but the Crown accepted that he was acting in self-defense. 

In the 2014 incident also, Mr. Jackson said he had acted to defend himself. 

Justice Quin instructed the jurors that if they thought Mr. Jackson was or may have been acting in self-defense, he was entitled to be found not guilty. It was for the Crown to prove he was not acting in self-defense. “You must consider the situation as the defendant honestly believes it,” he said. 

The judge explained that it was not self-defense if jurors were satisfied that Mr. Jackson knew it was not necessary to resort to violence. If he believed it was necessary to use force to defend himself, then the jury had to decide whether the amount of force was reasonable. 

A person under attack may act on the spur of the moment, he pointed out. The person cannot be expected to work out the exact amount of force needed to stop the attack. If a person uses force out of all proportion, that force would not be reasonable, Justice Quin said.