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Defense to request venue change in murder trial

Posted: October 24, 2012 - 12:02am

The jury trial for a man accused of murdering two police officers in Hoonah in 2010 could potentially be tried in a different location.

After two full days of listening to prospective jurors — who are currently being weeded out for bias — the defense attorney for defendant John N. Marvin Jr. announced he will be making a motion for a change of venue.

Public defender Eric Hedland told Sitka Superior Court Judge David George, who will be presiding over the trial currently slated to be held in the Juneau Dimond Courthouse, that he will be making his arguments about that on Wednesday. 

District Attorney David Brower told the Empire after court that he will be opposing that motion. When asked if Marvin could have a fair trial in Juneau, Brower declined to comment on the case, saying he will make his arguments in court.

Tuesday marked the second day of jury selection.

About 36 people on Monday and 54 people on Tuesday were interviewed individually by the judge and attorneys to determine their prior knowledge about the case, which had garnered media attention at the local, state and national levels.

Eight people were dismissed on Monday, and another 15 were dismissed Tuesday.

The vast majority of the prospective jurors said they were familiar with the case from news coverage or from friends, family and coworkers.

Those who said they have already formed an opinion that Marvin was guilty, and that they would not be able to put that aside to listen to evidence presented in court, were excused.

Hedland expressed concerns in court that his client should have the presumption of innocence, not the presumption of guilt.

Only a handful of prospective jurors said they had not heard about the shootings two years ago, which resulted in the deaths of Hoonah Police Department officers Sgt. Anthony Wallace and Officer Matthew Tokuoka.

Jury selection is slated to continue on Wednesday. About 45 or 50 of the remaining jurors will be randomly selected to stay since that’s all that can fit in the courtroom, and the rest will be dismissed.

The remaining 45 or 50 prospective jurors will be questioned by the judge and attorneys as a group for what’s called general “voir dire.”

Voir dire is the legal process of questioning prospective jurors to determine what their biases are and to see if there’s cause to not allow them to serve.

Although the motion to change venues has been announced, opening arguments in the case are still slated to begin Wednesday after general voir dire is complete.

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

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