Merrill misses another day in court

Posted: Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Charges against a former UAS student accused of raping his female roommate are expected to be dismissed Thursday, if he attends, a Juneau district attorney said.

The charges against Dominic Merrill stem from a Jan. 23 incident at UAS campus housing, after he and his roommate left a party where they'd been drinking.

Merrill, 21, was not present at court for a status hearing on Monday. His attorney, Michael O'Brien, also was not present. District attorney Doug Gardner said the charges would have been dismissed had Merrill or his attorney been present or phoned in.

It was the third such incident for the Merrill camp and one which prompted Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephen to mandate that either Merrill or someone representing him must be present for the dismissal, now moved to Thursday.

Merrill, who came to Juneau from Arizona, is attending a treatment facility as part of the proposed dismissal. Other factors in the case haven't come to public knowledge yet.

Gardner said Tuesday evidence in the case was compromised, but that he couldn't elaborate at this time as to why charges were being dismissed entirely.

"New information came to us that changed my view of what was the right thing to do," he said. "I believed that further prosecution of the case is not in the interest of justice. Tough decisions get made in this office all the time, both in terms of initiating the prosecution and all along the way... and this is just another one of those tough decisions and we've made it and I feel comfortable with it."

Gardner's office investigated the case with the Juneau Police Department.

Calls to defense attorney Michael O'Brien were not returned.

Judge Stephens denied a bail reduction for Merrill in February. Gardner at the time described it as a "brutal and mean and degrading assault."

"The assaults in this case are documented," he said in a past interview. "There are pictures. There are internal injuries."

Police recorded a conversation between Merrill and the alleged victim in which Merrill apologized for his actions.

"I am sorry for hurting you in every way. I am sorry about the bites and bruises. I wish I could take it all back," he was recorded saying in January, days after the incident allegedly happened. "I thought about flying home. I thought about locking myself away because I felt like a monster. When I drink a lot I black out. I promise nothing like this will happen again."

Merrill's attorney, O'Brien, previously had said the victim asked for his help to get charges against Merrill dropped.

"She called me on the phone about two or three days before the grand jury convened (in February) and asked me for help in getting the case dismissed," he told the court during a February bail hearing.

• Contact Klas Stolpe at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.



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