Forster hearing postponed

Posted: Sunday, January 02, 2005

An evidentiary hearing that had been scheduled for Kenai Superior Court in December in the David Forster trial, was postponed until Jan. 25.

Forster is charged with murdering Kenai Police Officer John Watson on Christmas just over a year ago.

Anchorage defense attorney John Murtagh had filed a motion alleging that taking statements Forster made while in police custody about the shooting death of Watson violated Forster's Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights: the right to remain silent and the right to be represented by a lawyer.

Those statements, according to Murtagh, should not be allowed as evidence during Forster's trial in part because Forster's mental status at the time was questionable.

A two-day evidentiary hearing on the rights issue originally began in early November but was curtailed after Murtagh announced he planned to call a psychiatrist to testify about Forster's mental status when police investigators obtained statements from him.

Judge Donald Hopwood ruled in November that the state had not been given sufficient notice and had not had time to review the doctor's report.

Hopwood, who was assign-ed to the case after Kenai Superior Court Judges Harold Brown and Charles Huguelet were disqualified by Murtagh and Kenai District Attorney June Stein, respectively, reset the hearing for December. Hopwood was the Superior Court judge in Kodiak before he retired.

Prior to the December hearing date, Stein said she filed a motion to exclude the psychiatrist's testimony, and now Murtagh has the option of responding to that motion.

Forster is accused of killing Watson late Christmas night after Watson went to Forster's residence on Watergate Way in the Kenai VIP Subdivision in response to an Alaska State Trooper request for help in conducting a welfare check.

At first, Watson reported that Forster's vehicle was not at the residence, but as Watson was leaving, he saw the suspect vehicle drive past him.

He turned around and stopped the vehicle in Forster's driveway, and a female companion of Forster's asked if she could take two dogs from the vehicle into the residence. Watson allowed her to do so.

A few minutes later, he radioed to police dispatch that he needed assistance.

According to troopers, it is believed Forster acted aggressively toward Watson, a struggle broke out, and, at some time, Forster managed to obtain Watson's service weapon, a .45 caliber semi-automatic handgun.

It is believed two shots were fired, one of which struck Watson in the head, killing him.

Forster then allegedly walked into the residence, where the female took the gun from him.

Backup Kenai police and troopers responded to the residence and remained in a standoff with what was believed to be an armed subject inside the residence until 1:07 a.m., when Forster surrendered without incident.

Shortly after the standoff began, the female ran from the residence unharmed.

Because of the continuing lengthy debate concerning Forster's mental status at the time of police questioning, the January hearing has been scheduled for two days.

Forster remains in custody at Wildwood Pretrial on $1 million bail.

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