Superior Court judge sets Forster trial for November

Posted: Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The murder trial of David S. Forster, the Kenai man accused of killing Kenai Police Officer John Watson, on Monday was set to begin the first week in November.

Speaking telephonically from Anchorage, Superior Court Judge Donald Hopwood, who will preside over the trial, conducted what was termed an "unspecified hearing" to question lawyers in the case and determine realistic procedural dates.

Anchorage attorney John Murtagh, representing Forster, and Assistant District Attorney June Stein told the judge they expect to try Forster separately on two cases before the court.

In what was referred to as "the '03 case," Forster is charged with murdering Watson and with two counts of third-degree assault and two counts of domestic-violence related third-degree assault.

Forster also is charged, in a second case, with first-degree tampering with a witness and with contempt of court. The lawyers referred to that as "the '04 case."

Murtagh told Hopwood he expects the murder trial to last three to four weeks including jury selection "if we can select a jury down here," he said.

"The '04 case should present legal issues and should take two to three days, after jury selection," Murtagh said.

Stein said she expected the first trial to take two to three weeks and agreed that the second would be two to three days.

Forster, who sat handcuffed and in an orange jail uniform at the defense table with Murtagh, smiled repeatedly during the proceedings Monday, but spoke only in whispered tones to his lawyer.

In previous court appearances, when he was not represented by counsel, Forster addressed the court directly when questioned as to whether he understood his rights to a speedy trial and whether he agreed to waiving those rights while he and his family attempted to retain an attorney for him.

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.

Judge Hopwood said he would check with the Kenai Superior Court to see when courtrooms will be available, and tentatively set an omnibus hearing for July 14, to review attorneys' motions in the cases.

Forster is being held in Wildwood Pretrial Facility on $1 million bail with a court-approved third-party custodian required if he is released.



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