Opening arguments are planned for Wednesday in the state’s case against John N. Marvin, Jr.
The 47-year old Marvin is accused of killing Hoonah police officers Matt Tokuoka and Tony Wallace in August 2010.
Thirty-six people were interviewed as potential jurors on Monday and another 54 were interviewed on Tuesday. The Juneau trial court system originally called 255 people in for jury service on Monday.
Of those interviewed, some were disqualified because they either exhibited a bias in the case or they did not have a solid understanding of the court proceedings. Potential jurors were specifically asked about media coverage and what they remembered from stories in the newspaper or on the radio over the last two years. Each person was interviewed individually away from the rest of the potential jury pool so that others would not be influenced by other recollections of the event.
You can review previous days’ proceedings in KTOO’s live coverage of the trial:
- Stuart DeWitt, Nick Davis and Joe Thompson were inducted into the Gold Medal Hall of Fame.
- On Saturday at the Juneau Lions Club 71st Annual Gold Medal Basketball Tournament, Lion Steve Brandner was chosen as the recipient of the Walter A. Soboleff Achievement Award, the tournament’s highest honor.
- Shutting down the oil platforms will allow Hilcorp to reduce the amount of natural gas flowing in the leaking pipeline.
- The co-chairmen of the House Finance Committee revised their plans to introduce an income tax to Alaska for the first time in nearly four decades.
After most of the courtroom was cleared out, Judge George came to the back to chat with members of the media who stuck it out to the very end today. He just wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page as far as camera placement and avoiding taking pictures of jurors.
Based on the deviation from the proposed schedule over the last three days, I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear evidence on Saturday.
Opening arguments now scheduled for 9:00 am tomorrow or shortly thereafter.
Jury members have now taken another oath.
Two remaining unselected jurors in the gallery are excused.
More instructions from the judge.
And, an admonishment about internet and social media use.
Fourteen jurors now selected.
“Your honor, we’d like to thank and excuse Miss Doe.”
Two other attorneys, observers, just walked in and sat in some empty chairs. They’re temporarily mussing up Judge George’s seating chart.
Usually a defense attorney talks with his client about who to let go doing pre-empts. But Hedland is instead consulting with his paralegal assistant. Marvin does seem to be leaning back and looking over with some interest at the jury list.
Brower stops at nine pre-empts. He says he’s satisfied with the current panel. He can only challenge new entrants to the panel.
Ah, now the so-called “pre-empts” or peremptory challenges. Judge George just told everyone not to take it personally.
TV cameraman raised his tripod and turned on the camera. Judge George, perhaps nervous about prospective jurors being photographed, just called the cameraman up to the bench. Uh, oh.
No worries, though. Just explaining some ground rules and letting him know that tomorrow morning would be a better time to shoot opening arguments.
Currently, prospective jurors are back in the room after a short break. Brower and Hedland are discussing something with Judge George at the bench.
Hedland asks jurors what they think is the right ratio of guilty people who are convicted versus innocent people who are convicted.
“Nine to one?”
“How about million to one?” proposes one potential juror.
“That’s pretty conservative,” says Hedland — getting a laugh from some people.
Hedland then asks another potential juror about the possible by-product of lowering the burden of proof to a preponderance of the evidence.
The juror responds fairly quickly. “There’d be more prisons and higher tax burden on the public and all that.” Everybody laughs.
“Ah, macro-economics!” Hedland continues to press on the potential conviction of those who are innocent.
Another potential juror believes it’s only natural to judge other people based on appearances whether it is right or wrong. It essentially can’t be helped.
“Some (defendants) like Imelda Marcos may present themselves better than others.”
Advantage to that person?
French or Latin? Hedland seems to ask while unsure of the origin.
“Voir dire means speak the truth.”
Opening arguments were supposed to happen sometime this morning. It’s starting to look like tomorrow morning may be a more realistic time.
I’m not taking any pictures since the most of the courtroom is still largely full of jurors. No sense raising the ire of the judge by whipping out the camera and start clicking away. Even a TV news cameraman has his rig turned off and lens cap still on. Besides myself and the court reporter from the Juneau Empire, the media contingent has expanded to include a reporter each from the Associated Press and local commercial radio operation. They likely expected opening arguments would already be underway by now.
“I’m kind of surprised that the trial did not get moved out of Juneau…,” one potential juror begins to say. Brower objects, bench conference again.
Now he’s moved toward the other side.
Hedland is questioning potential jurors about what they know about intent and a person’s previous criminal history. But he seems to be talking only to jurors in the jury box. He has yet to engage the other half of the pool seated in the courtroom gallery.
All nearly-four-dozen people have filed back in. (There are a few empty seats in the courtroom now. Some of the potential jurors who asked to stay and discuss various personal issues in a closed courtroom are now gone.) Hedland has shifted to asking jurors what they know about the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt.
We’re back from lunch. Public defender Eric Hedland now starting with his portion of the voir dire. He asks for show of hands of those who did not hear anything of the case. Only five go up. Then he asks for a show of hands of everyone who’s heard something about the case. All the rest go up. Hedland says that’s his big concern: The narrative within the media over the last two years that his client was the one who shot and killed two police officers.
Now Judge George has asked jurors to leave the courtroom. He’s discussing with Hedland about going back over old ground on pretrial publicity. The judge doesn’t want to erase the last two days of proceedings with discussing the issue in the open and tainting the jury en masse.
I guess the judge and I had the same ideas about lunch.
Once a jury was seated in previous Juneau trials, the judge would usually allow jurors to step out for smoke or lunch break. With the usual admonition about not talking about the case to anyone, jurors sometimes ventured down the hill to grab a quick bite to eat. Then, once deliberations get underway, the court system usually calls out to one of the local eateries for a big delivery. Jurors can fill their tummies without interrupting their deliberations in the jury room.
Lunch break called. Defense gets their chance to quiz everybody next.
No lunch for Judge George and the attorneys. They’re now chatting with a small group of people — one-by-one in a closed courtroom — about various personal issues.
Brower just used the old courtroom snowfall routine to help explain the difference between circumstantial evidence and physical evidence like testimony or a footprint.
“If you wake up to find snow on the ground, then you don’t need to see it snowing to know that it snowed overnight.”
Brower is currently looking for assertive jurors who would be willing to argue their side even if they are part of a very small minority in the jury room. Also, more questions about a jury’s responsibility and what potential jurors understand of the concept of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’.
Another potential juror, a woman, now says she’s not comfortable about participating in such a serious case.
A young man just said that he expected the Hoonah trial to be a combination of an episode of Law and Order and the O.J. Simpson marathon from years ago.
Brower has been joined at the prosecutor’s table by an assistant District Attorney and an investigating officer. Hedland is taking some notes as Brower continues questioning potential jurors. Marvin appears to be reading a court rule book and other court documents. He’s dressed in a tan sweater and light pants today. Jurors cannot see his leg shackles as they are cuffed to the table (gray curtains are still draped around both tables).
Brower is asking about the reasonable doubt threshold. One potential juror, who was concerned about work issues, says she’s now bothered by bearing the responsibility of being a juror in such a case. She’s now excused.
Brower is also asking if people would be disturbed if they saw certain pictures as physical evidence, what potential jurors would expect to hear, and their previous jury service. He also clarified that the judge would eventually impose any sentence — not a jury.
District Attorney Dave Brower warns that jurors may not hear evidence in a logical order.
Fifty potential jurors now seated. A few other dozen sent home for the day.
Potential jurors now being led into Courtroom C and seated. They are no longer in alphabetical order.
“You’ve all been randomized,” says Judge George.
Judge and counsel now considering potential jurors who have travel or work commitments.
Court staff just rearranged some chairs and moved press and observers to the back of the courtroom. We’re waiting for the first group of potential jurors for general voir dire.
Motion was denied without prejudice. Hedland may be able to bring it up again later.
Change of venue motion denied.
“Don’t object when I’m talking,” says George while explaining his reasoning after Hedland tries to interrupt.
Former KTOO boardmember and current KTOO employee named as many of the potential jurors exposed to some sort of pre-trial publicity.
Judge David George is now going down his own list of excused jurors and pre-trial publicity.
Hedland is focusing again on the anonymous comments made on Juneau Empire articles as potentially soiling the jury pool.
“The general idea that people know about this and can’t be fair, that’s not the case,” says Brower in wrapping up his rebuttal.
“That’s not the law,” says Hedland almost immediately in a follow-up. “Case law talks about whether the jury pool has too much information.”
Hedland wraps up after an hour and forty minutes. Brower is now arguing against moving the trial. He’s also citing the appellate opinion in the Harmon case.
“Most, if not all, of the panel has started from a presumption of guilt,” said Hedland.
Defense attorney Eric Hedland gestures while describing the bias of potential jurors during arguments over a possible change of venue. Defendant John Marvin, Jr. (left) reviews some documents while District Attorney Dave Brower (right) follows along with his own interview notes.
“We couldn’t print out all of the comments,” said Hedland. “But they were almost all filled with vitriol and hatred.”
Hedland was referring to the online comments attached to the 23 stories published by the Juneau Empire about John Marvin or the Hoonah incident. He’s currently noting those potential jurors who received their news from the newspaper or through the online version.
It sounds like Hedland is going through his entire list of potential jurors and all of his notes on them. He’s up to the M’s now. People were interviewed in alphabetical order on Monday and Tuesday.
Brower is following along with his own interview notes of potential jurors. He has yet to make his arguments to keep the trial in Juneau.
Hedland is going through his notes of interviews with potential jurors and naming those who recalled various media reports about the case.
Hedland says only seven out of ninety potential jurors have not heard anything about the incident or the case. Several people who expressed actual overt prejudice were excused for cause. Others who expressed some prejudice were eventually rehabilitated by District Attorney Dave Brower. No one had said anything favorable about defendant John Marvin. At least one potential juror had confused recent rulings about Marvin’s competency to mean that he was not insane.
Defense attorney Eric Hedland has started arguing for a change of venue or moving the trial to a different location. He’s referring to several previous cases including pre-trial publicity that surrounded the Harmon trial that was held in Juneau.
As we reported last night, this morning’s proceedings will include a general voir dire or questioning of all of the jurors together. Attorneys can still dismiss potential jurors for cause. Each side will also get eleven peremptory challenges in which potential jurors can be dismissed without a specified reason.
The defense plans to submit a motion to change the location of the trial. If that motion is rejected, then the trial will move to opening arguments and the first round of prosecution witnesses with the presentation of evidence.