Attorneys in the case of a Cooper Landing man charged with murder worked through oral arguments and motions during an evidentiary hearing on Monday at the Kenai Courthouse.
Paul Vermillion, 32, was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and manslaughter after the death of Genghis Muskox on Dec. 5, 2013 in Cooper Landing. Vermillion, an Iraq War veteran, and Muskox were drinking and got into a fight that ended with Muskox being shot and killed, according to Alaska State Troopers.
During Monday’s evidentiary hearing, Defense Attorney Andrew Lambert sought to exclude Vermillion’s prior convictions and some hearsay evidence. He also sought information including Vermillion’s medical examination, booking photos and intake information from Vermillion’s arrest.
Lambert and District Attorney Scot Leaders questioned several witnesses during the hearing, including Vermillion’s mother, Patrice, his brother, Thomas, mutual acquaintance Heather Harrison, inmate Beau Reed, and Jenna Miller, Muskox’s former girlfriend.
While Miller claimed Muskox stuck tight to his anti-violence principles whenever possible, she did cite a few examples of altercations he had gotten into in the past, both with Vermillion and with others.
“I did not consider Genghis a violent person,” Miller said, adding that he did enjoy heated conversations. “He believed in being the bigger person… he wasn’t perfect but he definitely strove to be that person.”
Leaders and Lambert questioned Miller about both Muskox and Vermillion’s habits and personalities. The picture she painted was of two drinking buddies who generally seemed to enjoy each other’s company.
Miller said she had believed the acts of violence on Vermillion’s part she had been told about were made worse by his drinking, and that she assumed he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his time at war. She said Muskox knew he had issues with alcohol as well.
“They both drank a lot,” Miller said of the men. “I’m pretty sure I’d never seen Paul sober until after he was incarcerated, or held.”
Superior Court Judge Charles Huguelet agreed that Vermillion’s prior convictions and hearsay evidence should be excluded, until there can be a separate hearing outside the presence of a jury.
Another issue brought up at the hearing was whether notes taken by Vermillion’s parents about the incident could be produced as evidence. Lambert argued the notes are protected by attorney-client privilege.
On the stand, Patrice Vermillion said she and her husband wrote the notes under the advisement of both her sister-in-law, a licensed attoney, and an investigator with the Kenai Public Defender’s office. Patrice Vermillion said the notes were intended to help her remember certain facts about the case and a phone call she said Paul Vermillion made to her on the night of Muskox’s death.
“I wrote down what I could remember Sunday night,” Patrice Vermillion said. “She (the investigator) did tell me that the lawyers would want to see them (the notes).”
Huguelet concluded the court will have to hear from Patrice Vermillion’s sister-in-law, and another date will be set for the evidentiary hearing to be continued.
Paul Vermillion has been staying with his third-party custodian Gregory Thompson in Houston, Alaska. His trial is set to begin Nov. 2, but there was discussion about pushing it back to after the holiday season.
Murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree are 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.
Editor’s note: Jenna Miller was employed at the Peninsula Clarion at the time of Genghis Muskox’s death.
Reach Megan Pacer at email@example.com