Jury selection is underway in the murder trial of defendant John N. Marvin Jr., who is accused of fatally shooting two police officers in Hoonah in 2010.
Twelve jurors, plus two alternates, will ultimately be chosen, but all 80 prospective jurors appeared in court on Monday.
Roughly half of those were interviewed individually by the judge and attorneys on Monday, and eight were dismissed by the end of the evening. The remaining prospective jurors will be interviewed individually on Tuesday.
Prospective jurors do not normally meet one-on-one with the presiding judge and attorneys, but it allows those with prior knowledge or preconceived notions about a high-profile case to be excused without tainting the rest of the group.
This murder case, which resulted in the deaths of Hoonah Police Department officers Sgt. Anthony Wallace and Officer Matthew Tokuoka, garnered local, state and national media attention, which concerned the defense and was the primary reason for the individual “voir dire.”
Voir dire is the legal process of questioning prospective jurors to root out bias and to see if there’s cause to not allow the juror to serve.
Of the 36 people questioned, only four people said they had not heard of the shootings, or Marvin’s name until Monday. The rest said they had heard about the shootings from media coverage, coworkers, friends or family.
Among those excused from serving on the jury was the wife of a Juneau Police Department officer; a law enforcement officer with The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who knew other law enforcement officers involved in the case; and a man who personally knew Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp, who will be prosecuting the case alongside District Attorney David Brower.
Prospective jurors who are not excused after individual interviews will be questioned by the judge and attorneys as a group for general voir dire. Opening remarks in the case are still scheduled for Wednesday. The trial could last up to two weeks.
Marvin sat silently through Monday’s proceedings which ended a little before 7 p.m., and he only talked once or twice to his attorney, public defender Eric Hedland.
It was the first time Marvin appeared in court in plain clothes instead of a red, maximum security jail jumpsuit — he wore a long-sleeved navy blue shirt and slacks. Defendants who are still in custody during their trial are allowed to wear civilian clothes so as to not prejudice the jury against them.
Marvin’s hands were allowed to be un-handcuffed, another customary measure to ensure the fairness and impartiality of the jurors. His feet, however, were in a leg guard that was locked to the defendant’s table.
A silver pleated skirt was placed around the table to prevent the jury from seeing that, and the prosecutor’s table as well, to match.
Proceedings are scheduled to continue in court at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday morning.
If convicted, Marvin could be facing up to 99 years in prison for each of the two counts of first-degree murder. He also is facing weapons misconduct charges.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.