Second-degree murder: guilty.
Tampering with physical evidence: guilty.
Self-defense: not proved.
After three days of deliberation, a Homer jury last Thursday afternoon delivered those verdicts for Demarqus Green, 23, of Anchorage. Green, the jury concluded, could not claim self defense in the July 7, 2012, killing of Demian Sagerser, then 40.
The jury found Green not guilty on the most serious charge, first-degree murder, and also not guilty on a charge of first-degree robbery.
Green had claimed self defense in the shooting of Sagerser at Sagerser’s Stariski Creek home. Green said Sagerser attacked him with a utility knife when Green attempted to buy marijuana.
In the evidence tampering charge, the jury found him guilty for destroying a red jacket and other evidence related to the murder.
As Judge Anna Moran read the verdict, Green sat passively next to his attorney, Adam Franklin, and showed no apparent emotion to either the not-guilty or guilty verdicts.
Sagerser’s parents, Marjorie Bantz and David Sagerser, did not attend the hearing. In email, Sagerser said he was grateful to the jurors for finding a fair and just verdict.
“I am deeply saddened as there are no winners here,” Sagerser said.
Green admitted that he went to Sagerser’s cabin near Mile 149 Sterling Highway to buy marijuana. While there, Green said, he shot Sagerser. An autopsy showed Sagerser had been shot in the back and the left side. Alaska Bureau of Investigation detectives found 9 mm bullets in the cabin, and forensic analysis showed the bullets matched a 9 mm Smith and Wesson semiautomatic pistol seized from Green when he was arrested in late August 2012.
At dispute was if Green shot Sagerser in self defense, if Green stole marijuana and money, and if Green and his girlfriend, Nancie Modeste, 29, destroyed evidence. Modeste had already pleaded guilty to destroying clothing Green wore, such as a red jacket.
A game camera set up by Sagerser outside his A-frame cabin captured images of Green in a red jacket walking into and out of the cabin about 7 p.m. July 7, 2012.
To discount the self-defense claim, jurors only had to disprove one of a list of factors, such as that Green had been involved in a robbery, that he did not believe the extent of force used was needed to prevent harm to himself and that he had a duty to retreat.
The state also asserted that Green had engaged in a felony drug transaction or purported drug transaction.
The jury did not specify how it disproved the self-defense claim, but because it convicted Green on the second-degree murder charge, it did not accept a self-defense claim.
Under a 2012 Alaska law that took effect before Green shot Sagerser, a defendant also cannot use self defense if involved in a felony drug transaction. Franklin asserted that Green bought a half-ounce of marijuana, less than a felony amount. Leaders said that didn’t matter, that Green had gone into Sagerser’s house with the intent to buy a felony amount of marijuana but balked at the price and bought a lesser amount.
In discussions about jury instructions last Monday, Franklin and Leaders had debated the meaning of the word “purported” as it applied to felony drug transactions. Judge Moran looked at the legislative history and ruled that “purported” means “the parties anticipated a felony transaction.”
Franklin disagreed, saying the law was constitutionally vague, and said he would consider an appeal. Franklin did not return a phone message asking if he would appeal Green’s conviction.
In her instructions to the jury, Moran had said to find Green guilty on second-degree murder, it had to show one of three things:
• He intended to cause serious physical injury which resulted in death,
• He knew his conduct was certain to cause death or serious injury, and
• He committed a robbery and during the robbery or pursuit he caused a death.
Leaders said that because the jury found Green not guilty on the robbery charges, that was the only factor that could be known was not disproved in a self-defense claim or proven in a second-degree murder claim.
To find Green guilty of first-degree murder, the jury had to find that Green intended to kill Sagerser. By finding him not guilty of first-degree murder, the jury concluded Green did not intend to kill Sagerser.
After the jury foreperson delivered the verdict to Moran and she read it, Leaders asked her to poll each juror to see if they agreed with the verdict. One by one the jury of seven women and five men all said they agreed with the verdict.
Moran set a sentencing hearing at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Homer Courthouse. Under state sentencing guidelines, Green could receive at least 10 years in prison and up to 99 years on the second-degree murder conviction. On the lesser charge of first-degree tampering with evidence he could receive up to 5 years in prison.
Three Homer Police officers and Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Jeremy Stone, head of the Anchor Point Post that initially responded to Sagerser’s killing, guarded the courtroom door as the verdict was read. Upon Green’s conviction, his bail was reduced to no bail. Green was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.