Homicide case in limbo as judge considers indictment’s validity

By September 26, 2017Crime & Courts, Juneau

A Juneau judge is considering whether to throw out an indictment in a homicide case.

David Evenson leaves the courtroom after a pre-trial hearing in his case on Sept. 21, 2017. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

David Evenson leaves the courtroom after a pre-trial hearing in his case on Sept. 21, 2017. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Prosecution and defense attorneys participated in pre-trial oral arguments last week in the David Evenson case.

Evenson is accused of punching and kicking Aaron Monette, 56, in the head June 30 at the downtown transit center. Monette died five days later in Seattle.

The 51-year-old Evenson was indicted on felony charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Public defender Eric Hedland said video gathered as evidence shows Evenson punching Monette a single time. As far as allegedly kicking him, Hedland said that’s unclear.

Hedland wants the indictment against Evenson dismissed.

He believes the grand jury was improperly instructed on elements of the charges.

For example, the definition of manslaughter is when a person intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes the death of another person.

The definition of reckless is when someone is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that – in this case – someone could die after being hit.

Put another way, how could Evenson foresee that a single punch to Monette’s head would burst a pre-existing aneurysm?

“I think there’s a good chance that if the grand jury was told ‘Hey, look, if you find this is too unlikely or too remote, then you can’t hold him criminally liable,’” Hedland said. “And, that certainly might’ve prompted a grand juror to ask (a medical examiner) a question: ‘Well, you just said it was like .2 to .5 percent of a time that an aneurysm ever ruptured. What does that mean? Was that unlikely?’”

Assistant District Attorney Amy Paige said Monette dying from the punch may have been a remote possibility, but it was not unforeseeable.

“Can a person die from a head injury? Yes. We all know that,” Paige said. “We know that through general awareness in the same way we know that DUI can kill people, in the same way that we know texting and driving can kill people. We know that head injuries can cause a person’s death.”

If the judge agrees with Hedland’s arguments, then the indictment could be thrown out and an upcoming jury trial would be canceled. Prosecutors would have to start over and go back to the grand jury if they wanted to prosecute Evenson for Monette’s death.

If the judge disagrees and lets the indictment stand, then Evenson could stand trial in February.

Evenson did not speak during the hearing last week, but afterward he waved and spoke to a grandchild as he was being led out of the courtroom by a judicial services officer.

“Thank you for coming,” Evenson said. “Bye, baby. I love you.”

Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg is expected to issue an opinion on the motion to dismiss the indictment by the end of October.

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