A defendant in a 2015 prison riot case will go to trial alone on Monday, after a judge ordered a competency evaluation for one of the other three men in the case.
During a lengthy hearing Tuesday, Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg dealt with a myriad of issues involving scheduling, primarily involving the questions raised regarding Christopher Davison’s mental competency to stand trial.
Davison was one of eight inmates originally charged with felony rioting and criminal mischief in connection with the incident on Oct, 5, 2015, which reportedly caused thousands of dollars in damage but no injuries at Lemon Creek Correctional Center. Four of those defendants have taken plea agreements, including Tommie Snyder earlier on Tuesday.
Pallenberg noted that after a hearing on Monday that included observations from Davison’s counsel in several other cases, he was ordering a competency evaluation for Davison against the defendant’s wishes. It was not clear why Davison’s competency was questioned because that hearing was held in chambers. A status hearing was set for Sept. 28.
Because Davison would not be able to go to trial on July 31 as scheduled, two other defendants — Dalton Nierstheimer and Jordan Oldham — agreed to postpone their trial, which has been rescheduled for Oct. 30. They will return to court on Oct. 23 for a pre-trial hearing.
Davison is not “technically” on the calendar for that Oct. 30 trial date, but would likely also stand trial on that date if he is deemed mentally competent.
Justin F. Thomerson, meanwhile, was adamant that he wanted to proceed to trial, and as of the end of the day Thursday, no requests for a hearing to postpone appeared on the court calendar. Jury selection in his case begins at 8:30 a.m. on Monday.
Besides Snyder, three other inmates — Shawn Buck, Rodney Willis and Jose A. Munoz — have taken plea agreements in connection with the riot, which reportedly was sparked by changes to the phone system used by inmates that caused a jump in billing rates. On the night of Oct. 5, 2015, calls were abruptly stopped, and inmates became agitated by the fact that they would be paying for those disrupted calls.
In E dorm, inmates covered cameras and uprooted a table bolted to the dorm’s concrete floor. The table was wedged against the door into the dorm, and a window into the dorm was broken. Bathroom partitions and bunk mattresses were ripped from their places and shoved against the broken window in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent corrections officers from flooding the dorm with pepper spray through the resulting hole.
No one was injured in the riot, but Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sherrie Daigle said that visitation had been shut down after the incident and preliminary estimates measure the damage in the thousands of dollars.
Department of Corrections spokesman Corey Allen-Young confirmed the phone system still is being used at LCCC.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 523-2246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.