Over the objection of the murder victim’s mother, a sentencing hearing in the case of convicted murderer Demarqus Green will be held at the Kenai Courthouse instead of in Homer as previously scheduled.
A hearing scheduled for Oct. 26 was rescheduled to next week. On a motion by Kenai District Attorney Scot Leaders, Kenai Superior Court Judge Anna Moran changed the time and place for the hearing to 9 a.m. Nov. 13 at the Kenai Courthouse.
In May, a Homer jury found Green guilty of second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in the killing of Demian Sagerser. Marjorie Bantz, Sagerser’s mother, said she was writing a letter to Judge Moran objecting to the change of venue.
“Right now they’re having it in Kenai, which is not acceptable for me. They (the court) offered to send a taxi down for me, but what about the other 10 to 12 people who wanted to attend?” she said.
Green, 23, admitted to shooting Sagerser, then 40, on July 7, 2012, at Sagerser’s Stariski Creek home during a marijuana drug deal, but claimed he shot Sagerser in self defense when, he said, Sagerser attacked him with a utility knife. The jury rejected that argument, but found Green not guilty of first-degree murder — that he intended to kill Sagerser — and of first-degree robbery. The state claimed Green robbed Sagerser of marijuana and cash.
Sentencing hearings are commonly held in the community where the crime occurred. Green is from Anchorage and has no ties to the lower Kenai Peninsula, but Sagerser grew up in Homer and had lived in the Anchor Point area for the past 20 years. Green’s lawyer, Adam Franklin, said Green did not oppose moving the sentencing hearing to Kenai.
Not holding a sentencing hearing in the community where the crime happened “does smack contrary to constitutional rights that victims have, the right to be treated with dignity, fairness and respect,” said Taylor Winston, executive director of the Alaska Office of Victims Rights.
Lawyers with the Office of Victims Rights sometimes advocate for victims as part of criminal court proceedings. Winston said Sagerser’s family were not clients of her office in the Green murder case.
Judge Moran has the discretion to schedule hearings outside of Homer, Winston said, but the same principle that applies to the right of the defendant to be tried by a jury of his peers in the community where the crime happened should apply to the sentencing. She said sometimes jurors express interest in attending the sentencing.
“They can’t participate. It’s like they’re being shut out of the process of the convenience of the players,” Winston said. “The victim is affected, but of course the community is affected by the homicide. I think it’s awful.”
Moran has not yet ruled on a motion for a new trial by Green’s attorney. Franklin said it would make sense for Moran to rule on that motion before next month’s sentencing.
On the evidence tampering charge, the jury found Green guilty of destroying evidence from the shooting, including a red jacket a game camera set up by Sagerser showed Green wearing. Green’s girlfriend, Nancy Modeste, had earlier pleaded guilty to evidence tampering.
As of press time, District Attorney Leaders did not return an email or phone message seeking comment on why he asked for the sentencing hearing to be held in Kenai.