Attorneys delivered closing arguments Thursday afternoon in the John N. Marvin Jr. murder trial, and the jury will begin deliberating Friday morning.
Marvin, 47, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, and weapons misconduct, and he could receive life in prison if convicted. He is accused of fatally shooting two Hoonah Police Department officers in 2010.
District Attorney David Brower closed the case as he began it — by playing an audio clip of the police scanner traffic, wherein a woman screams, “OFFICER DOWN, OFFICER DOWN.”
The jarring recording once again prompted tears from family members of the slain officers, who have been sitting in the gallery of the courtroom watching the trial, including the woman screaming over the police radio, Deborah Greene. Greene is the mother of Sgt. Anthony Wallace, and she was present when her son and his work partner, Officer Matthew Tokuoka, were gunned down on the main street of Hoonah on Aug. 28, 2010.
Also in the courtroom were Juneau Police Department officers, who wanted to show their support to the victims and their families. JPD and other agencies went to Hoonah to assist in arresting Marvin, who had barricaded himself in his home. Marvin surrendered peacefully after 36 hours when law enforcement volleyed tear gas into his home.
Brower says Marvin fulfilled a grudge against police, who had arrested him the year prior, by shooting the two officers in cold blood from the second-story window of his home. The officers and family members were socializing in a parking lot across the street and a couple houses down from Marvin’s home. Wallace was in uniform, on-duty and in a marked police vehicle, while Tokuoka was off-duty, in plain clothes, and with his wife and children in a personal vehicle.
One of the state’s witnesses during the trial, firearms identification expert Robert Shem, testified one of the bullet fragments lodged in Tokuoka’s body and another bullet found at the shooting scene were from a rifle seized from Marvin’s home.
Brower showed the Browning BAR 7 mm rifle with a scope to the jury for the last time, hoisting it and saying, “This is the one that killed Officer Wallace, and this is the one that killed Matthew Tokuoka.” Brower hoisted it up a second time a few minutes later, and added, “A type of gun that people use for hunting large game, Mr. Marvin used to kill two people.”
Proof that Marvin intentionally shot the two officers that day could be found in the two bullet holes in Tokuoka’s T-shirt, located right next to each other, Brower said, panning the T-shirt to the jury.
“Who can shoot like that?” Brower asked, saying testimony showed Marvin was a skiller shooter. “Mr. Marvin can. He used to be a seal hunter, he hunted in boats, he hunted from the beach. He shot seals. That’s some precision shooting.”
Brower says Marvin used a rifle rest to take aim at the officers from his window, and added, “If you look at the precision shooting in Tokuoka’s shirt, there should be no doubt that he intended to kill Officer Tokuoka, and in fact, did kill Officer Tokuoka.”
Public Defender Eric Hedland said during his arguments that there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that two people are dead who shouldn’t be, and that the pain and loss that the families have endured was excruciating. But Marvin was innocent, he said. He pointed out holes in the state’s second-story window theory.
“If the person who shot Officer Wallace shot from the second-story, from this perspective of the south window of Mr. Marvin’s house, why is it that the bullet found in Mr. Wallace’s back went up from right to left?” Hedland asked. “If the person who killed Officer Wallace and Matthew Tokuoka shot from this perspective, from the second-story window of John Marvin’s house, where are the spent casings? If the person who killed those individuals shot them with a 7 mm Browning rifle, why was there no gun powder in the bore?”
Hedland said the only reason police suspected Marvin in the shootings was because he fit the profile, and because of the close proximity of Marvin’s house to the location of the shootings.
“The suggestion is an ambush — an ambush to fulfill a grudge,” Hedland said. “If that’s the case, why this day? Mr. Marvin, the (prior 2009 arrest) incident happened a year ago, and had been out of jail for nine months. Why this day?”
Hedland said testimony during the trial showed that police had “zero” information about who the shooter was at the time of the shootings, but at some point shortly thereafter the then-police chief and a reserve police officer came up with the theory that Marvin was the sole suspect.
Hedland added the state’s case was based on circumstantial evidence, and that no one saw Marvin shoot the officers. He asked the jurors if it was implausible that someone else shot the officers, especially given that the scene was unsecured and not being watched for approximately 10 to 20 minutes after the shootings as the wounded officers were being driven to a local clinic.
Hedland also called into question the credibility of the state’s firearms identification expert, who testified that he does not have an error rate and that he has never incorrectly identified a bullet or firearm despite being in the field for 32 years, so far as he knows.
Hedland argued law enforcement’s efforts to recreate the crime scene was not precise, and testimony showed Marvin never threatened police before or made any kind of manifesto.
Hedland noted just because Marvin was a “good shot” does not mean he killed the police officers. He pointed out it’s not unusual to have guns in the home or to be a good shot in rural Alaska, especially Marvin who, testimony showed, had a traditional Native upbringing and hunted to subsist.
Hedland said the shootings brought “unimaginable horror” upon the small village of Hoonah and the victims’ family members. It was especially horrible because family members were present at the time and watched the officers being shot.
“We think that something that bad will never happen to us, right?” Hedland asked the jury. “But that is not a reason to convict somebody.”
The judge presiding over the trial, Sitka Superior Court Judge David George, read aloud the charges and instructions to the jury a little before 6 p.m. An alternate juror was also picked at random to be dismissed. The 12 remaining jurors are scheduled to begin deliberating Friday at 9 a.m.