A judge has ruled the man accused of fatally shooting two Hoonah police officers in August 2010 is competent to stand trial.
Sitka Superior Court Judge David George made that ruling Monday in Juneau Superior Court after hearing differing testimony from two psychologists, both of whom examined John N. Marvin Jr. during his court-ordered stay at Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage from Jan. 31 to April 2.
“I’m not finding on review that Mr. Marvin is incompetent to stand trial,” George said.
The ruling cleared the way for a jury trial to proceed, and a two-week long trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 22.
The ruling was a victory for prosecutors, who hailed the judge for making “the correct decision with the evidence,” District Attorney David Brower told the Empire after the hearing.
It was also a victory for the family of Officer Matthew Tokuoka, 39, one of the slain policemen. Tokuoka’s widow, Haley Tokuoka, 32, attended Monday’s hearing with her niece, and was smiling after the ruling was handed down.
“My reaction is that it’s about time,” Haley said outside the courtroom. “I’m glad they made sure that he was competent to stand trial, and they’ve gone through all the processes. But I’m just ready to be done with it, and put it behind us, and not have to deal with all the court hearings and everything else, and that our family can start to move on now.”
Marvin was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of weapons misconduct after Sgt. Anthony Wallace, 32, and Officer Matthew Tokuoka, 39, of the Hoonah Police Department were gunned down in front of Marvin’s residence on Aug. 28, 2010.
Prosecutors say the two officers were ambushed as they were talking on the street. Family members of the two were present at the time of the shooting.
Marvin barricaded himself inside his residence in a standoff with law enforcement officials for about 36 hours before surrendering on Aug. 30.
The issue of Marvin’s legal competency has continually delayed his trial, especially as psychologists who were evaluating him gave conflicting opinions.
During Monday’s hearing, both psychologists who testified deemed Marvin competent, but there was debate over whether Marvin had a delusional mental disorder.
Dr. Lois Michaud, a forensic psychologist who evaluated Marvin at API in February and March of this year, said there was a “strong possibility” that Marvin was “malingering,” which means exaggerating or faking a mental disorder.
“I think that it’s a game with Mr. Marvin,” Michaud said, noting he was of average, or slightly above average, intelligence. “It’s just part of his personality.”
On the other hand, Dr. David J. Sperbeck said it was “obvious” that Marvin had a delusional disorder.
“He is obviously not a normal person, and to say that he doesn’t have a psychiatric disorder is to essentially state that his behavior falls within a range of normal human behavior,” Sperbeck said. “This man is not normal.”
Sperbeck explained that Marvin feels “persecuted” by people generally, and has grandiose delusions.
“He continues to refer to himself as a member of royalty,” he said.
Both Michaud and Sperbeck agreed Marvin has a personality disorder with paranoid and antisocial traits. They both described him as “game-y,” and controlling. Sperbeck pointed out Marvin would “throw information out, and then retract it, and then smile.”
Sperbeck characterized Marvin’s behavior and thought processes as sometimes “bizarre, aggressive and unpredictable.” He found Marvin to be of normal intelligence, but “he can quickly turn hostile, especially if he’s pressed on specifics of the crime charged,” Sperbeck said.
So what was Marvin’s motivation to be uncooperative by refusing to cooperate with mental health officials and refusing to communicate with his lawyer, Eric Hedland?
It wasn’t to avoid a trial, Michaud said.
“As far as I can tell, if I can believe Mr. Marvin, he wants to prove his innocence, but he is also intent on making things as difficult as possible. Being uncooperative, it’s just part of his personality,” she said.
Sperbeck said the refusal to cooperate and continuous denial about knowledge of that day in August may only be partially due to the mental disorder, and more due to a “legal defensive strategy in his mind.”
Sperbeck and Michaud agreed Marvin had the capacity and ability to tell the facts in the case, but isn’t due to lack of willingness.
“When Mr. Marvin chooses to be cooperative, he can be so. When he chooses not to be cooperative, then he’s uncooperative. I see it as willful. I see it as part of his personality. I do not see it as lack of ability,” Michaud said.
George had deemed Marvin legally incompetent in early January and required him to go to API after hearing conflicting reports from three psychologists. He reversed his decision after listening to Monday’s testimony and arguments. Monday’s competency review hearing was required by state statute.
Marvin objected once or twice throughout the two-hour long hearing, but for the most part he sat quietly next to his attorney. He wore shackles and red prison garb, with the word “Max” written in black on his breast pocket, for maximum security. He was escorted into the courtroom and watched by two court security officers, instead of the usual one.
Marvin’s family members attended the hearing, but did not talk to the press.
Wallace's mother was in Louisiana and attended the hearing by teleconference, Brower said.
Tokuoka’s widow, Haley, sat directly behind Marvin, less than 3 feet away in the front row of public seating. In August, she and her husband would have been married 10 years, she said.
The stay-at home mom moved to Juneau a few months ago so her children — George, 8, and Layla, 3 — could receive more counseling, she said. Her children have developed attachment disorders since the shooting, as well as anxiety issues that prevent them from going to school.
“It’s really hard,” Haley said. “It’s changed our lives forever. The fear of somebody coming after me is the fear that my children live with every day because they think that he’s going to come and get me too. So my son is always trying to protect me by being there, and I always tell him that’s not your job to do, honey.”
Haley said she was confident Marvin was competent, and was glad the judge saw that too. She said she plans on attending all the future court proceedings in the case now that she lives in Juneau.
“I just want what is due to him,” she said of her husband’s alleged killer. “He’s murdered my husband, and took away the best father that my children could ever have.”
But, she added, “Whatever the consequences he gets are fine. ... As a Christian, this isn’t the final decision. Our Creator will make that final decision.”
The next court hearing is Oct. 15, just a few days before the start of the trial.
Editor's note: The Empire incorrectly reported that District Attorney David Brower said the wife of the late Sgt. Anthony Wallace was unable to attend a court hearing on Monday. Brower was referring to Wallace’s mother, who listened to the hearing by phone from Louisiana. Wallace was unmarried.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.