Seward Journal logo-color

The man charged with shooting and killing two others in April will claim that he acted in self-defense, according to documents filed by his attorney in the Superior Court.

Joseph Haney Chandler, Jr., 31, is charged with murder in the shooting deaths of Dustin Marx, 28, and Michael White, 40, whom police found dead in a van parked near a home on Nash Road. Chandler remains in custody at the Wildwood Pretrial Facility.

A notice filed by public defender William W. Taylor indicates that Chandler “intends to rely upon the justification of the use of force, both deadly and non-deadly, in the defense of self, property and others.”

Alaska statute generally permits the use of force when a person “reasonably believes it is necessary for self-defense against what the person reasonably believes to be the use of unlawful force by the other person” or “commission or attempted commission by the other of an unlawful taking or damaging of property.”

That condition narrows when the force in question is lethal. A person may use deadly force in defense against death, serious physical injury, kidnapping, sexual assault in the first or second degrees, sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree, robbery and, in certain cases, arson and burglary.

Alaska is one of many states with a so-called “stand your ground” law, which eliminates a person’s duty to first retreat in the face of unlawful force before resorting to deadly force. Alaska law has no duty to retreat from “any … place the person has a right to be.”

Chandler allegedly told police that Marx and White were not supposed to be on the property, according to the police account of an interview Chandler gave the day of the incident.

Public records show the property belongs to Shawn Corn. Corn told the Seward Journal that Chandler had been his roommate, and confirmed Chandler’s claim that he did not want Marx or White on the property.

Chandler allegedly said that he spoke with Marx and White for 10 to 20 minutes after they arrived in the van and that the conversation grew heated, with Marx calling Candler names, making threats and making what Chandler allegedly called “gestures” with his hands in his pockets.

Besides defense of self and others, Alaska criminal law affords other defenses to charges of violent crimes.

Chandler will also mount defenses under four of these statutes, the notice indicates, claiming that he acted out of necessity, under duress and in the performance of public duty. He will further mount a defense under Alaska’s entrapment statute.

The performance of public duty defense justifies “conduct which would otherwise constitute an offense … when it is required or authorized by law or by a judicial decree, judgment, or order.”

A defendant claiming he acted under duress must prove that he committed an offense “because the defendant was coerced to do so by the use of unlawful force upon the defendant or a third person.”

Alaska’s statute on necessity permits an affirmative defense under common law in which the defendant must prove that he committed a crime in order to avert a specific, greater evil.

Finally, the law on entrapment excuses crimes committed at the inducement of law enforcement officials. In other words, a defendant may argue that a police officer persuaded him to commit a crime that he would not otherwise have committed.