Man awaits verdict in trial for stabbing

Accused says knifing of acquaintance was done in self-defense

Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2002

A Juneau jury is deciding today whether the stabbing of a Juneau man - the result of an argument about which one was the "real Alaskan" - was meant to cause serious injury or was self-defense.

George Shavers, 48, is on trial for stabbing acquaintance Barry Richards on Jan. 26 while they were drinking on Shavers' boat. He is charged with felony first-degree assault and felony tampering with evidence.

Shavers admits to stabbing Richards but said it was in self-defense.

Police and prosecutors have not been able to locate Richards since he checked himself out of a hospital Jan. 27.

Attorneys presented closing arguments to the jury Wednesday afternoon after District Attorney Rick Svobodny rested his two-day-long case. Defense Attorney David Seid presented no witnesses and Shavers declined to take the stand.

An audiotaped conversation investigating officers Chris Sell and Scott Ericksen had with Shavers, conducted after he was apprehended Jan. 28, was played to the jury.

On the tape, Shavers told police he and Richards were drinking on the Consort, the boat where Shavers lived. The two consumed an 18-pack of beer, a bottle of whiskey and a fifth of another unnamed liquor. Shavers said Richards began acting "weird," and getting belligerent.

"He started saying 'You ain't no real Alaskan,' " Shavers said on the tape. "I stood up and he shoved me down real hard. He was on top of me and I was thinking 'Oh my God, he's going to kill me right here.' "

Shavers said this was the third scuffle the two engaged in that night. Richards instigated the fights, Shavers said, by shoving Shavers or goading him with taunts that he had sex with cats and little boys.

Shavers said he asked Richards to leave several times. During one scuffle, Shavers pulled about a 4-inch knife from his pocket and began stabbing Richards, once through his ear, and then another 17 to 22 times.

"After I stabbed him in the head, he kind of passed out on top of me and I stabbed him a few more times," Shavers said. "I didn't want him to get hurt."

Shavers said Richards attempted to choke him and gouge out his eyes.

Svobodny said in his closing arguments that stabbing someone while he is passed out is not self-defense and no physical evidence existed to prove a brawl took place. He said Shavers wasn't scared because he made a second trek to the liquor store with Richards, allowed him to stay after the stabbing and never called police.

Seid argued because the state could not produce the victim, no one could prove the attack wasn't self-defense and didn't happen the way Shavers claimed.

After the stabbing, Shavers went to bed, he told police. Around 10 a.m. on Jan. 26, Shavers woke up. Richards was asking for an ambulance.

Shavers told police he noticed the blood flowing from Richards' ear but didn't think Richards was hurt badly. Shavers cleaned Richards' wounds but didn't want to call an ambulance and risk "going to jail for him," he said on the tape.

He boiled water to clean the blood puddled in parts of the boat, took the blood-soaked pants he was wearing, rags, the empty alcohol containers and a bag of cigarette butts to a Dumpster, threw his knife in the harbor, and went to get food for Richards from the Glory Hole, he said.

Richards was found face down on the dock around noon.

When Shavers came back to his boat and saw police, he left the scene.

Svobodny said Shavers knew he would be arrested, which is why he disposed of evidence and ran.

Seid argued Shavers ran because he felt as though he would be "railroaded by the police." Seid also said Shavers wasn't dumping evidence but just was tidying his boat.

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