A judge on Friday sentenced John Nick Marvin Jr. to serve two 99-year prison sentences for killing two police officers in Hoonah in 2010.
The sentencing marks an end to the case at the trial court level, which culminated in a week-long jury trial in Juneau in late October and early November, and provides closure for the family members of the slain officers, they said.
“It’s what I was hoping for,” Haley Tokuoka, the widow of Hoonah Police Department Officer Matthew Tokuoka, said after the hearing. “It’s emotional but it’s awesome. It’s finally over. It’s like a new beginning.”
Sitka Superior Court Judge David George imposed the sentence — 99 years for each of the slain officers without the possibility of parole — during a two-hour hearing in a Juneau courtroom Friday morning. George heard arguments from attorneys and emotional victim impact statements from Haley Tokuoka, Officer Matthew Tokuoka’s father L. Dean Goodner, and Sgt. Anthony Wallace’s mother Deborah Greene.
“You can never understand the depth of my sorrow of not having my son with me,” Greene said in her letter that was read aloud by Haley Tokuoka. “He was everything to me, and you took that away from me and my family. What am I to do now Mr. Marvin? Live out my life with an empty hole in my heart?”
“The slain officers’ families will endure at whatever levels they will, but they will not be whole again. And for what?” Goodner said in his statement to the court. “... I am not capable to of expressing the breadth of feeling I have for 40 years of raising a child to successful adulthood to see that child’s life cut short and his family destroyed in so many ways for an instant of immediate self-gratification, rage or whatever perverted excuse Marvin or his defense attorney raised.”
A jury convicted Marvin on two counts of first-degree murder for fatally shooting Hoonah Police Department Sgt. Wallace, 32, and his police partner Tokuoka, 39, on Aug. 28, 2010, as the officers were socializing with their family members in a parking lot on Hoonah’s main street. District Attorney David Brower argued Marvin shot them from the second-story window of his nearby house.
Originally, the shooting was described as an “ambush” carried out “in cold blood,” but a new narrative from prosecutors emerged at trial that the act was motivated by revenge for an earlier arrest. The two officers had arrested Marvin in 2009 for criminal trespass, and a struggle ensued that left Marvin Tasered and bloodied in a jail cell.
Testimony showed the shooting took place as Marvin was deteriorating mentally and was convinced he was under siege by the police. About 30 minutes prior to the shooting, a marked police vehicle had driven past Marvin’s home twice, and just moments before the shooting, one of the officers had shone a flashlight into Marvin’s home, thus confirming his delusions, his attorney said.
State statutes required the judge to impose 99 years for Wallace’s death since the jury made the special finding that Wallace was uniformed or otherwise clearly identified as a police officer when he was shot.
The sentence for Tokuoka, however, was up in the air since the jury did not make that finding in his case. (Tokuoka was off-duty and in plainclothes when he was shot.) The judge could have imposed anywhere between 20 and 99 years, or could have ordered the sentences to run partially concurrently, or at the same time.
In the end, George imposed the maximum penalty in order to deter others, he said.
“I think it would be a mistake for this court to say that once you’ve killed an officer, you can blow away a few more and your sentence won’t be as severe as for the second officer,” George said, noting it was clear that Marvin knew both men were officers.
District Attorney Brower had requested the maximum penalty.
“I think it’s important to let society know that when you’re convicted of these sorts of crimes, there’s not a chance that you’re going to get out,” he said.
Shackled and wearing an orange prisoner’s jumpsuit, Marvin stood up to address the court before the sentence was handed down. He maintained his innocence in a largely incoherent speech about five minutes long, saying he plans to appeal. He complained of double jeopardy, saying there were three court cases against him that were open and that they were going out of order, making it “illegal to proceed.”
“It’s illegal to proceed this way,” he said.
He said the jury was a hung jury and that the case will be dropped. He again referred to himself as “high-ranking royalty,” which psychologists who examined him before the trial said was a pervading theme in his delusions.
“Royals are not understood in Alaska, not at all,” Marvin said.
At one point, he seemed to say that the two officers had injured themselves while trespassing on his property, although it wasn’t clear whether he was referring to a prior arrest or the 2010 shooting. He said that insurance would cover the shooting, and he had tried in vain to declare a “royal insist” to clear his name.
“I’m innocent,” he said.
Marvin refused to sign paperwork when he was being thumb printed before the sentencing hearing began, and during the hearing, he avoided eye contact with family members of the slain officers in the courtroom by flipping through a court rules book sitting on the defendants table. At trial, he frequently was seen flipping through the same book, and at one point, his attorney told the Empire Marvin was just reading the Table of Contents.
Judge George initially ruled Marvin was legally mentally incompetent to stand trial after psychologists found he was unable to assist in his own defense. After Marvin was revaluated at Alaska Psychiatric Institute, psychologists found his competency was restored (albeit without medication). The judge then reversed his ruling, clearing the way for trial.
On Friday, Marvin’s attorney Assistant Public Defender Eric Hedland noted the fact that Marvin never received mental health care before the shooting. Analyzing the case in a civil context, he said he wondered if there were factors that could have prevented the shooting.
The act was not “in cold blood” as previously claimed “because of the prior contacts, because of the paranoia that built, because Mr. Marvin had (felt) under siege and because he came to believe that he was under attack from these officers, who then showed up, confirming his beliefs, shining the light in the window,” Hedland said. “So it’s not inconsistent to on the one hand to say you can’t go around killing people and destroying families, and also acknowledge that maybe on some level everyone feels a tinge of this didn’t have to happen.”
As Hedland talked, Marvin kept whispering to him.
“This kind of stuff right now, this right now —” Hedland said, nodding at his client. “People can say whatever they want. People can say this guy concocted this premeditated plan, but I would just suggest it isn’t borne out by the way he presents any interaction I’ve ever had with him. It’s the best trick I’ve ever seen. I mean, he has Andy Kaufman covered.”
“To recognize that somebody has a mental health problem, is not to justify their actions,” Hedland added. “Those two things are not mutually exclusive. Somebody can have mental health problems and also be on some level responsible for their actions.”
It was no surprise Marvin was convicted, Hedland said. He said there was no winning from the beginning, and that they knew they would be in this position since the day he was arrested.
“Not a lot of surprise, but there are still a lot of questions,” he said
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.