The Alaska Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions this week of a man convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for killing two Hoonah police officers in 2010.
In April 2013, John Nick Marvin Jr. was sentenced to two 99-year prison terms for the shooting deaths of Officer Matthew Tokuoka, 39, and Sgt. Anthony Wallace, 32, on Aug. 28, 2010. According to a memorandum opinion issued by the Court of Appeals Chief Judge David Mannheimer this week, Marvin challenged his convictions on two grounds, saying that he was not competent to stand trial and that if he had been competent to stand trial, his trial should have been moved out of Juneau because of adverse pre-trial publicity.
The memorandum opinion looks back at a long evaluation process for Marvin, which included a stay in the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. Dr. David Sperbeck conducted multiple evaluations on Marvin, including listening to audio recordings of Marvin talking with his defense attorney. In the recordings, Sperbeck found, Marvin was purposely evasive and uncooperative.
In Sperbeck’s opinion, according to this week’s memorandum opinion, “Marvin was competent to stand trial because he had the capacity — although not the willingness — to assist his attorney.” On appeal, according to the memorandum opinion, Marvin, currently 52, argued that Sperbeck was merely speculating when he was ruling on Marvin’s competency.
The memorandum opinion asserts that the court did a thorough job in evaluating Sperbeck’s findings and showed a good understanding of the conclusions at the time. On this basis, the Court of Appeals upheld the superior court’s decision that Marvin was competent to stand trial.
Marvin’s second assertion was that the media coverage of the case was so extensive that the trial should have been moved from Juneau to find jurors who were more likely to have not read the reports.
In support of the motion for a change of venue, Marvin’s attorney submitted more than three dozen articles that covered various aspects of the case. These articles told of Marvin’s apparent criminal history in Hoonah and of the process of Marvin’s psychological evaluation.
A few articles, including some that appeared in the Empire, contained what the memorandum opinion called “prejudicial information” about Marvin. Comments from doctors described Marvin as angry, combative, antisocial, “gamey” and “evasive,” among other descriptors. Marvin’s attorney made two motions to change the venue, both of which the court denied.
Sitka Superior Court Judge David George began the jury selection process by devoting two days to individually questioning each of the prospective jurors. Marvin’s attorney challenged eight of them and only five of them were dismissed, according to the memorandum opinion. According to the memorandum opinion this week, the Court of Appeals found that the superior court in Juneau did a good job of evaluating jurors, and affirmed the judgment of the court.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.