Forster evidence hearing postponed until December

Posted: Monday, November 08, 2004

A hearing in Kenai Superior Court to decide whether certain evidence in the David Forster trial should be allowed in court began Thursday, but was interrupted and continued until December.

Forster is charged with murdering Kenai Police Officer John Watson on Christmas last year.

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

The planned two-day evidentiary hearing got under way Thursday with testimony by Alaska State Trooper investigators Dane Gilmore and Jane Schied, who is now retired.

Murtagh had planned to call a psychiatrist to testify about Forster's mental status, but Judge Donald Hopwood ruled the state was not given sufficient notice and did not have time to review the doctor's report, so the second day of the hearing was postponed.

Hopwood, who was assigned to the case after Kenai Superior Court Judges Harold Brown and Charles Huguelet were disqualified by Murtagh and Stein, respectively, reset the hearing for Dec. 3. Hopwood was the Superior Court judge in Kodiak before he retired.

Gilmore, who was testifying telephonically from California on Thursday, said he first contacted Forster at 1:45 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2003, in an interview room at trooper "E" Detachment headquarters in Soldotna.

Gilmore said he informed Forster of his Miranda rights and Forster said he did not want to talk at that time.

"I stopped interviewing him," Gilmore said.

Two days later, Gilmore received a phone call from a Wildwood Correctional Center officer who said Forster wanted to talk to an AST officer.

Again Gilmore advised Forster of his constitutional rights, and Forster told him he wanted to speak to Schied.

Schied had initially spoken with Forster on Dec. 26, 2003, in the Kenai courthouse holding cell where he was awaiting arraignment on the first-degree murder charge.

"Did you advise him of his Miranda rights?" asked District Attorney June Stein.

"Yes. He kept talking. He understood his rights. He said he had to get his testimony out," Schied said.

The investigator said she interviewed Forster on two subsequent occasions, each time advising him of his rights.

Murtagh repeatedly asked Schied if Forster talked about Satan, about fighting with the devil, and asked if his comment about giving his testimony could have meant giving testimony in a religious sense.

"During the first interview, he said he knew the patrol car was a patrol car. He called him 'officer, Officer Watson,'" Schied said.

"The fight with the devil came after, when he was in his house," she said.

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, 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 For-ster surrendered without incident.

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

During the hearing last week, Stein asked Schied if at any time during the Dec. 26 interview Forster said he did not want to talk to her.

"No, he did not," Schied said.

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

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