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Accused cop killer to be re-evaluated for mental competency

Jury trial for John N. Marvin Jr. still slated to begin next week

Posted: October 17, 2012 - 12:04am

The jury trial for the man accused of slaying two Hoonah police officers in 2010 is slated to begin next week, but attorneys are still arguing over whether he is mentally fit to stand trial.

Sitka Superior Court Judge David George ordered Monday that defendant John N. Marvin Jr. once again be evaluated for his mental competency.

George said the results of that evaluation would be heard in court on Thursday before the Oct. 22 trial start date.

George had previously deemed Marvin legally incompetent in January and required him to go to Alaska Psychiatric Institute after hearing conflicting reports from three psychologists. He reversed his decision in June after hearing testimony from two psychologists who agreed Marvin was competent.

The renewed request for the finding of incompetency came from Marvin’s attorney, public defender Eric Hedland, in a written motion submitted Friday.

Hedland argued Marvin was unable to assist in his own defense because of mental health issues, rather than just an unwillingness to cooperate.

To prove that, Hedland submitted an audio recording to the court of an Oct. 9 jail visit with Marvin at Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Hedland said during the visit, the things that Marvin discussed were irrelevant and incoherent, and that the only advice he gave to Hedland for his defense was to “keep it simple.”

Hedland added in an affidavit that he has attempted to communicate with Marvin about his case for two years, but Marvin has yet to talk with him coherently about what happened the day of Aug. 28, 2010 when Sgt. Anthony Wallace and Officer Matthew Tokuoka were gunned down in front of Marvin’s residence. Marvin is facing two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of weapons misconduct.

“Mr. Marvin has never contacted me on his own volition,” Hedland said in the affidavit. “He has never called me, written me, or made any demands upon me that are relevant to his defense. His defense is only to ‘keep it simple.’”

After the Oct. 9 jail visit, Hedland added he asked a correctional officer about Marvin’s behavior in jail. The officer, Leo Fenumiai, said Marvin does not speak to anyone, even his cell mate, and he also does not read, write or exercise.

“All that he does is sit in his cell and stare out the window all day long,” the affidavit states. “He said that Mr. Marvin’s behavior has always been the same.”

Hedland submitted the Oct. 9 audio recording to Dr. David Joseph Sperbeck, a mental health professional who has evaluated Marvin in the past.

Sperbeck was called upon to testify before the court on Monday, and he said by phone that Marvin demonstrated the exact same behavior in the Oct. 9 audio recordings that he has witnessed in the past. He described Marvin’s behavior as “controlling, insistent and overly focused upon irrelevant minutia with no interest in presenting any defense other than his assertion of innocence.”

Sperbeck reiterated his opinion that Marvin has a mental disorder, but he is able to stand trial. He’s just not willing, the doctor said.

“Everybody felt that he was capable but not willing to stand trial, and this is the way he demonstrates that,” Sperbeck testified Monday about the recordings.

When asked by the judge if another evaluation would be helpful in his assessment, Sperbeck said probably not.

“It probably would not add anything more than what I’ve concluded based on my experience,” Sperbeck said. “I’ve seen him now a total of three or four times.”

George granted the request to reevaluate Marvin anyway, citing the passage of time since his last evaluation in the spring.

District Attorney David Brower opposed the new evaluation, saying the court has already held a competency hearing and found him competent.

“There does not appear to be any new evidence that Mr. Marvin is incompetent to stand trial,” Brower said in his response.

George said during the hearing he’s still hopeful jury selection can begin Monday morning.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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