Live Blog: Hoonah homicide trial day 2
Posted on October 23, 2012 at 6:08 am
Category: Crime & courts, Syndicated
Estimated reading time: 0 minutes, 36 seconds
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Jury selection continues on Tuesday in the case of a Hoonah man accused of killing two police officers.
John Marvin, Jr., 47, stands trial for the August 28, 2010 deaths of Matt Tokuoka and Tony Wallace. After allegedly shooting both officers, other officers who responded to the scene said that Marvin engaged in a standoff with them for nearly a day before he surrendered.
Public defender Eric Hedland is representing Marvin while District Attorney Dave Brower is prosecuting the case.
Sitka Superior Court Judge David George is presiding over the ten-day trial that is being held at the Dimond Courthouse in Juneau.
In addition to updated stories that you can hear on KTOO’s regularly-scheduled newscasts, we’ll be live-blogging the events and proceedings of the trial.
Judge George expects to tell jurors that it’s his responsibility that the last two days have been so long.
General voir dire, change of venue motion, opening arguments, and first witnesses expected for tomorrow.
We’ve been going alphabetically. Now up to the Y’s. Number 54 is the last interview for today.
So far, potential jurors have variously disclosed relationships with Brower’s wife, being part of Hedland’s old hockey team, or being friends with District Court Judge Keith Levy (not part of this case). There’s also the son of one of Hedland’s colleagues and a potential juror’s noted friendship with Judicial Services officer Al Fenumiai (Marvin’s escort). On a personal note there’s also a current coworker of mine (now excused from service), former boss of my boss’ boss, one of my daughter’s former teachers, and my daughter’s current principal. It’s really a small town.
Potential beverage juror is excused because she had a public defender represent her in a minor consuming case within the last two years.
We must be near the end. The prospective juror who was earlier offered coffee, tea, and hot chocolate is now up for her interview. Another potential juror, a former police officer from Washington state about 25 years ago, has been asked to come back tomorrow morning.
“I apologize for you being here so long. One thing about court is that it is not at all like television,” says Judge George to slightly-irked woman who had been waiting since early this afternoon to be interviewed.
Pull. No, push.
The inside face of the inside double doors of Courtroom C have pull handles, but they only push out. Several potential jurors have been momentarily flummoxed trying to leave the courtroom after their interview.
Another potential juror is concerned about this being a capital case. Judge George instructed him that there is no capital punishment in this state and the prospective juror should not concern himself with any potential punishment if a defendant is convicted.
Before the bench conference, Hedland continued arguing his point even though Judge George repeatedly tried to end it and move on.
“Fifty bucks! Fifty bucks!,” says Judge George to Hedland during a bench conference so loudly that it can be heard in the back of the courtroom even over the white noise generator.
First bit of real tension between Judge George, Brower, and Hedland about raising concerns of capital or severe punishment for a defendant convicted of a capital crime. Alaska is not a capital punishment state, but the potential juror did not know that. Hedland appears to be upset that Brower explained it to her when Hedland says they agreed that the subject is off-limits during voir dire.
Some of the potential jurors trying to remember media coverage of the Hoonah case have variously referred to the defendant as either the defendant, suspect, Means, or George Marvin.
“Puts a lot of pressure on Mr. Brower and I to form complete sentences,” says Hedland during part of an interview with a communications instructor.
Excused for cause is a former state probation officer who was familiar with the John Phillips case and the death of Trooper Bruce Heck about 15 years ago. She apparently has already made up her mind about the Hoonah case. However, a Juneau man who was a witness in the Jason Coday case several years ago will be coming back for the final round of jury selection tomorrow.
When asked about potentially serving on a jury, barefoot man in shorts says he’s already had to reschedule work several times and his office is short-staffed.
Mother-in-law of a Hoonah man who is a cousin to an officer’s widow tries to keep it together during the interview. She’s quickly spared by attorneys and Judge George who excuses her because she’s “too emotionally invested in the case.” Woman became upset describing visits with the officer’s child.
Overheard: Jury clerk briefs a prospective juror as she arrives for mid-afternoon gathering in Courtroom D that is being used as a waiting area.
“…and there’s coffee, tea, and hot chocolate available…”
Wait, what? What about Courtroom C?
Signs on courtroom doors clearly prohibit cell phone use, or food and drink. In-court clerks, though, usually set up pitchers of fresh water for the jury or attorneys.
Superior Court Judge David George in Courtroom C at the Dimond Courthouse awaits another prospective juror from a waiting area in Courtroom D to enter for an interview.
A mediator says she was scheduled to travel to Hoonah for a session at the school. But then — just after shooting — she was told not to come until about a week later. She says the community “felt very quiet”, “hushed” when she finally arrived.
A 23-year old is quizzed about his potential role as an equal among the rest of the jury. He may be the youngest person called for service during this trial. Many of the people called appear to be twice and three times his age.
“I’m talking now. I’m talking now, Mr. Hedland,” says Judge George in a firm, but non-hostile tone as he cuts off the defense attorney who was beginning to argue about a potential juror’s possible bias.
Brower finishes the somewhat-bumpy questioning session of the self-professed biased man. Judge George waits for Hedland to start. He doesn’t even bother.
Hedland: “You going to make a motion?’
Hedland: “I move to disqualify for cause.”
One man says he can’t sit on the jury with an open-mind. He contends that he’s already biased because he knows a couple of the officers involved in the case.
Judge George says he’s planning on a lunch break at 2:15 just before interviews start on the fourth and last group of potential jurors.
Defendant John Marvin, Jr, relaxes for a moment while his attorney Eric Hedland confers with an assistant before the next potential juror is brought in for an interview.
“I just don’t know nothing about what happened.” But he seems to have already made up his mind about the case. Hedland moves to excuse for cause. Granted.
“A lot of evidence points to him being guilty,” says one man after hearing or seeing a few media accounts about the August 2010 incident. Brower uses that comment to begin his questioning about considering all the evidence in the case. It’s almost certain that Hedland will immediately focus on that remark as well.
The use of social media as a news gathering and dissemination tool just came up in this case.
One woman, who believes she may be a distant relative of the defendant, described seeing some reported accounts of the shooting passed around through Facebook posts and personal messages. She reported being on a boat coming into Hoonah to fuel up when she was told by her cousin that she shouldn’t come in. The town was shut down. The potential juror was eventually dismissed for cause. She had talked with an officer’s widow recently and knows several Hoonah residents on the witness list. Her great-grandmother perhaps was a sibling of the defendant’s great-grandmother.
Another woman, whose brother is a police dispatcher, recalled making a Facebook post with a graphic memorializing the fallen officers.
Same potential juror, but questions now turning to newspaper reports of the defendant’s competency to stand trial.
“I think we’re going far afield again here,” says Brower.
Hedland has returned to the line of questioning regarding preconceived notions with a potential juror who reads the Juneau Empire on-line and the anonymous comments attached to each story. Hedland is once again concerned about uninformed opinions framing the potential juror’s context of the event. Can he make a distinction between such opinions and any evidence presented in the courtroom?
“My boss is going to be upset,” recalled one potential juror when she received her notice for jury service this month. None of her office coworkers can do her job and her colleagues up in Anchorage would have to take on her duties.
“Too bad, I’ve got to do my civic duty.”
She did express concern with her future association with a coworker who is a relative of the defendant. She wondered how awkward it would be if she served as a juror and if the defendant was eventually convicted.
The interview process is going much faster this morning. Hedland has dropped yesterday’s line of questioning about preconceived ideas and the presumption of innocence. He may be saving that for general voir dire tomorrow. He’s sticking to probing potential jurors about their associations with witnesses and other principals in the case.
Attorneys are now questioning a Juneau man who was in Hoonah with his girlfriend for a family gathering and then left on the evening before the incident got underway. He also returned to Hoonah for the memorial service for the officers, met a widow of an officer and felt bad for her, and knows several officers or Hoonah residents. Defense attorney Eric Hedland seems perturbed that such associations weren’t made clear earlier. Hedland is concerned that the man apparently knows too much about the case and has too much emotional involvement in it. The man is being excused-for-cause from this trial.
At least nine potential jurors interviewed so far this morning before Judge George calls for a 15 minute break. Most people are late coming back, but Marvin is still in the courtroom. He’s pointing out some apparent discrepancies to his attorney that he says he found in the court record regarding bail and separate cases.
“Please don’t talk about what we talked about or tell anyone about this case. Don’t read the newspaper or go on the internet to find out about the case.” That’s the basic admonition, with many minor variations, issued by Judge David George to each potential juror as they are asked to come back to the courthouse on Wednesday morning.
Mother of other officer just arrived. She also attended the start of jury selection yesterday.
Besides myself and a reporter from the paper, the only people in the gallery today include a public defender’s paralegal, cousin of the defendant, and widow of one of the officers.
One woman, upon learning that she was selected for jury service this month, was told weeks ago to write a letter asking for a deferment because she had a previously-scheduled trip for training out-of-state. She was called in anyway. Judge David George told her to go back downstairs to the clerk’s office and obtain the deferment.
Interviews of potential jurors is underway again this morning in Juneau Superior Court. DA Dave Brower just moved to excuse-for-cause a woman who is acquainted with the cousin of the defendant. She admits that it might be hard to face family members if the defendant is convicted, but she says she’d follow the law as best as possible.
I went back through my notes this morning after getting some rest. I can see straight again.
A total of thirty-six people were individually interviewed during jury selection yesterday. Of those, seven were excused for cause. They either exhibited a bias for or prejudice against a participant in the case, or they did not have a solid understanding of the court proceedings. One person was excused for cause before he was even interviewed.