Jurors this week saw forensic evidence collected by authorities who investigated the officer-involved shootings in Hoonah, the strongest of which was a firearms identification expert who said a bullet and cartridge he examined were fired from a rifle found in the defendant’s home.
Robert J. Shem, a firearms examiner for the state of Alaska crime lab, testified he examined a bullet, bullet fragments and cartridges that were collected from the shooting scene and from the bodies of the two slain police officers.
Some of the results from his tests were inconclusive, he said, but one bullet and one cartridge he examined showed they were fired from the 7 mm Browning Automatic Rifle with a scope that prosecutors say John N. Marvin Jr. used to shoot and kill the two Hoonah Police Department officers in 2010.
“That bullet was fired from the same gun, yes,” Shem said under direct examination from District Attorney David Brower, referring to a damaged bullet — presumably the one found at the scene of the shootings — that was compared to three live rounds that were taken out of the Browning when it was seized as evidence. Shem test-shot two of the three live rounds at a metal box target from 50 feet away at the crime lab, then compared its markings to the damaged bullet under microscopes.
Holding the now-inoperable Browning in one hand on the witness stand, Shem added, “In comparison of the individual characteristics, I found that we had sufficient matching patterns, the strident marks, on both the tests in the evidence to be able to establish that that bullet was fired from the same gun.”
Shem will appear in court again Wednesday to be cross-examined by Marvin’s attorney, public defender Eric Hedland.
Marvin is on trial for two counts of first-degree murder and weapons misconduct. He could be facing life in prison if convicted.
The state theorizes that Marvin, 47, shot and killed the officers from the second-story side window of his Front Street home with the Browning rifle. The officers — Sgt. Anthony Wallace and Officer Matthew Tokuoka — and their family members had been standing in the parking lot of a liquor store across the street and about three houses down from Marvin’s home.
Also taking the stand on Tuesday was the Alaska State Trooper who managed the case, Michelyn Manrique. Manrique described for jurors how investigators recreated the crime scene to see if the bullets could have come from Marvin’s window. Marvin had already been a suspect in the shootings by then.
Under direct examination from District Attorney David Brower, Manrique testified one of the bullets grazed Sgt. Anthony Wallace’s patrol vehicle at the site of the shootings, leaving a defect on the left passenger side bumper. That portion of the bumper was later cut off of the vehicle, seized as evidence, and shown to the jury on Tuesday. Shem said he was not able to determine what kind of gun caused that grazing damage.
Manrique said she placed a small piece of copper tubing against the bumper defect still on the vehicle several days after the Aug. 28, 2010, shootings, and looked through it. It lined up “precisely” with Marvin’s second-story window, she said.
Under cross-examination, however, Manrique then said nothing is ever exactly “precise” and that she didn’t conduct the copper tubing test from other angles.
“You can’t ever get anything back at the precise way that it actually happened that evening,” Manrique said when pressed by Hedland.
Manrique further stated that investigators did not know at what angle the slain officers vehicles were parked — since they had been removed from their original locations — except through the memory of Officer Matthew Tokuoka’s widow, Haley Tokuoka, who was present when the first gun shots were fired. (Haley Tokuoka promptly drove away from the scene, with her two children in the backseat, upon her husband’s instructions. She was not present at the scene when her husband was shot a few minutes later after Wallace.)
Haley Tokuoka was briefly called back to the stand on Tuesday to testify that she was watching investigators try to recreate where the vehicles were parked a few days after the shootings, told them they “had it all wrong,” then assisted them in their scene recreation.
Several other holes in the investigation were brought to light with Manrique on the stand under cross-examination. Manrique stated that investigators waited five days after the shooting to spray luminol — a chemical that can illuminate blood — at the scene location. That would have established where the officers had fallen in the parking lot, instead of relying on witnesses memories.
Manrique also testified that Wallace’s police vehicle — that had blood and body tissue on its rear passenger side door — was washed before she arrived in Hoonah on Sept. 1, four days after the shootings. No forensic testing was done with those fluids because of that.
Manrique also testified under cross-examination that the night prior to her arrival, a candlelight vigil was held at the shooting location despite the fact that investigators were still investigating the scene. About 90 to 100 people were there for the vigil, which Manrique said should not have happened during the investigation due to all the foot traffic in a crime scene.
It was only then, during that vigil, that a person discovered a bullet on the scene. Haley Tokuoka’s brother-in-law, Paul Johanson, testified Monday he was checking on his wife and Haley Tokuoka as they were sitting in lawn chairs in a tent at the shooting location. As he peered down to make sure the legs of the lawn chairs were stable, he found the bullet, he said. Trying not to upset his wife and Haley Tokuoka, he nonchalantly picked it up with his bare hands and handed it to a nearby Trooper who was investigating the case, Alaska State Trooper Mark Granda.
Granda also testified Monday that he assisted Manrique and other troopers with the scene recreations. He showed the jurors a picture of a laser trajectory from where the officers were standing to Marvin’s house side window. The photographs are supposed to show the flight path that the bullets could have taken under their theory.
Under cross-examination, however, Granda said investigators did not conduct the same laser trajectory from the shooting location to any other nearby houses or locations. Hedland also established that the locations in which they were standing were also based on witness memory.
Granda also said under cross-examination that he and two other investigators searched the home for three full days, but did not find any 7 mm casings near the second-story window of Marvin’s house, or beneath the window outside the house. Another investigator, Wildlife Trooper Andy Savland, would find a 7 mm casing a week later as he was executing a search warrant to seize the window. Savland testified earlier he moved a pile of stuff around to access the window when he discovered the casing.
Jurors saw the bullet fragments that were recovered from the slain officers and the scene, as they were taken out of evidence bags and shown to them on Monday. They also saw autopsy photographs.
The medical examiners that conducted the autopsies for Wallace and Tokuoka testified Monday and Tuesday. Dr. Katherine Raven conducted Tokuoka’s autopsy and confirmed the cause of death to be gun wounds to the chest. A total of seven fragments were collected as evidence from his wounds.
On Tuesday, Dr. Robert Whitmore, who conducted Wallace’s autopsy, confirmed Wallace also died of gun shot wounds — one to his right upper thigh and another in the back area near the shoulder blades. Fragments of bullets were also seized as evidence from his body and clothes.
Under cross-examination, Whitmore divulged that a toxicology report revealed Wallace, who was on-duty when he was shot around 11 p.m., had the equivalent of a .019 blood alcohol level content, based on his eye fluids at the time of the autopsy. It was not revealed what toxicology reports showed for Tokuoka, who was off-duty when he was shot.
Fingerprint and DNA analysts from the crime lab in Anchorage also testified Monday and Tuesday.
No latent fingerprints could be lifted from six of the guns taken from Marvin’s home sent to the crime lab, said fingerprint analyst Thomas Wortman. DNA analyst Cheryl Duda said she could not obtain a genetic profile for one of the guns, but for the other, she said Marvin could not be excluded as the source of the DNA.
Attorneys met Tuesday night to discuss instructions to the jury, which will be given to them at the end of the trial after the defense presents its case and closing arguments. Proceedings are expected to continue Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. with Hedland’s cross-examination of firearms expert Shem.
There were 11 men and three women chosen as jurors last week, but one was excused after a closed session on Monday. Eleven men and two women remain. One juror will later be dismissed as an alternate.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.