Man charged with shooting cop to stand trial this month

Jury selection slated for May 17 in David Forster proceedings

Posted: Monday, May 09, 2005

The judge in the David Forster case met with attorneys Thursday to iron out details of courtroom procedure for the upcoming murder trial set to begin during the week of May 16.

Forster is charged with fatally shooting Kenai Police Officer John Watson on Christmas 2003.

Kenai District Attorney June Stein was the only principal present in the Kenai courtroom for the pretrial conference. Judge Donald Hopwood and defense attorney John Murtagh participated by phone from Anchorage.

Hopwood predicted the highly publicized case will necessitate interviewing as many as 120 potential jurors to seat an impartial jury of 12 with four alternates.

When asked about the method of conducting preliminary examination of potential jurors — a process known as voir dire — Stein said an effective method would be to ask groups of candidates if they knew any of the participants in the trial or knew of the case through pretrial publicity.

Those who were unfamiliar with the case could then be isolated and questioned in further detail separately.

The goal would be to avoid giving potential jurors information that could prejudice their opinions as to guilt or innocence.

Jury selection is slated to begin May 17 following one more pretrial conference May 16.

The judge and attorneys agreed to conducting the actual trial on full days, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and partial days from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays.

The attorneys estimated the trial would last three weeks.

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 a trooper request for help in conducting a welfare check.

At first, Watson reported that Forster's vehicle was not at the residence. As Watson was leaving the home, 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 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.

During the conference Thursday, Hopwood said he would allow the prosecution and the defense 30 minutes each for opening statements in the case.

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