Cooper Landing murder trial delayed again

The trial of a man accused of murder for the 2013 death of Genghis Muskox has been pushed back to April.

Paul Vermillion, 32, of Anchorage, was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and a count of manslaughter after Muskox’s death on Dec. 5, 2013 at Vermillion’s home in Cooper Landing.

Vermillion, an Iraq War veteran, and Muskox are alleged to have gotten into a fight after drinking, an incident that ended with Muskox being shot and killed, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Kenai Superior Court Judge Charles Huguelet accepted District Attorney Scot Leaders’ request to continue the trial to April during a trial call and motion hearing on Wednesday at the Kenai Courthouse. Leaders asked for the continuance because he recently received a report from Vermillion’s defense attorney, Andrew Lambert, and needs time to consider it, he said.

Both Leaders and Lambert said the report interprets evidence from the Cooper Landing crime scene much differently than reports from the state.

“It’s very supportive of (the) assault defense claim in the case,” Lambert said at the hearing, which he attended by phone along with Vermillion.

Vermillion’s lawyers have claimed he was acting in self-defense when he killed Muskox. At a previous hearing, Lambert read from a transcript of one of Vermillion’s 911 calls.

“He tried to kill me,” Lambert read. “I reacted. I reacted.”

Both attorneys agreed that the evidence in question will be significant in the case.

Lambert did not dispute Leaders’ request to postpone the trial, but said he would have to cancel a vacation he and his wife already paid a significant amount of money for in order to make the new April 4 trial week work.

Huguelet stressed that he had already “shifted civil cases galore” to accommodate the previously scheduled February trial. He, Leaders and Lambert wrapped up the hearing by going over some remaining motions in the case, some of which Huguelet said he will not act on until the new trial date gets closer.

He also went over what kind of expert witnesses the attorneys plan to call during trial, which Lambert said include a neuropsychologist, a close quarter combat expert and an expert on post traumatic stress disorder.

Muskox’s parents, Susan Muskat and John Cox, also appeared at the hearing telephonically. Muskat said she and Cox support Leaders in delaying the trial but are frustrated that attorney vacation time factors into scheduling.

“Mr. Lambert’s claim of financial hardship … considering future court calendaring is ludicrous,” she said.

Huguelet explained that while the court doesn’t intend to be insensitive to family members, he understands it can sometimes seem that way. He warned both Leaders and Lambert that they will have to try to fit the trial into a 2-3 week period.

“We’re going to keep it clean and to the issue,” Huguelet said.

Vermillion’s next trial call is scheduled for March 30.

Murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree are both unclassified felonies, while manslaughter is a class A felony.

An unclassified felony is punishable by 20 to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

A class A felony is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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