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Trial to begin in shooting deaths of Hoonah policemen

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Posted: Monday, October 22, 2012 1:27 pm | Updated: 11:39 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

JUNEAU, Alaska - A judge has ruled that a man accused of fatally shooting two Hoonah police officers in 2010 is legally competent to stand trial, clearing the way for jury selection to begin.

Sitka Superior Court Judge David George made the ruling Friday after hearing more testimony from two psychologists who re-evaluated John N. Marvin Jr. at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute in Anchorage. Marvin is facing two counts of first-degree murder charges for allegedly gunning down Sgt. Anthony Wallace and Officer Matthew Tokuoka in front of Marvin's residence on Aug. 28, 2010. If convicted, he could serve life in prison.

Jury selection was to take place Monday and Tuesday. Opening statements are expected Wednesday.

One of the doctors, Dr. David Joseph Sperbeck, who has now evaluated Marvin three times, testified Marvin is able, but just unwilling to stand trial, or even to discuss the case with his attorney, despite the fact that that is in his best interest.

Describing Marvin as an "eccentric hermit" with a probable delusional disorder, Sperbeck speculated Marvin is not discussing the case with public defender Eric Hedland for several possible reasons.

"He is not refusing to talk because he's paranoid," Sperbeck said in court by phone. "He's refusing to talk, at least in my mind, and again I'll qualify that by saying I'm speculating, but my belief is that he doesn't have a rational explanation. And he's basically in total denial. ... And it's also a form of controlling the system by refusing to cooperate. It's his way of controlling the proceedings. A person who has no control left in his life, this is the last thing he has control over."

Sperbeck added, "He is a desperate, eccentric person in a situation that he's sort of sliding down a tunnel from which there's really not going to be much of an escape, and I think the closer we get to his trial the more likely he is to become increasingly hostile, or outspoken because it will start dawning on him what's really happening is sort of denial and defensiveness is just not working."

The second psychologist who re-evaluated Marvin, Dr. Lois Michaud, said unlike Sperbeck she doesn't believe Marvin has a mental disorder, but agreed with Sperbeck that Marvin was able to stand trial.

The judge had previously deemed Marvin legally incompetent in January, but then reversed his decision in June based on the testimony and recommendations of the mental health professionals.

In an 11th-hour effort, Hedland requested last week that his client be re-assessed, citing lack of communication.

The judge said in order for a defendant to be found legally incompetent, statutes require the defendant to suffer from a mental disease or defect that prevents him or her from understanding the legal proceedings or from assisting his or her own defense.

After listening to the testimony, George said it's clear to him based on the fact that Marvin is not communicating with his attorney is a choice that he has made, probably out of "practicing avoidance" and not due to a mental disorder or defect.

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