In the seventeenth day of the proceedings we saw a few more state witnesses backfire and support claims of innocence, and another tape of an unavailable and clearly mentally ill person. The state’s case is a litany of witnesses who are mentally ill, testifying to unrelated issues, or there to defend their own reputation.
The State of Alaska began day seventeen with the completion of the Margaretta Hoffman testimony (read HERE) and then moved on to a series of former DA’s and a police officer. All were called in relation to how the handled the 2011 Holmes confession in the case.
Former district Attorney Scott Mattern was methodically and relentlessly questioned during cross-examination by Kate Demarest, one of the attorneys comprising the pro bono team from the international Dorsey and Whitney firm. In his initial testimony Mattern stated that he did not investigate or pursue the 2011 confession to John Hartman’s killing by William Holmes because he did not find it credible.
“That’s because, if I’m understanding you correctly, you found it not credible that the two guys, Holmes and Wallace, who had murdered three people together in 2002 could have also murdered someone else in 1997?” Demarest asked.
Mattern’s testimony was characterized by repeated angry outbursts. He stammered under continued questioning and presentation of exhibit after exhibit, including an email from a police officer directly asking Mattern if the evidence should be disclosed, that contradicted his testimony. Mattern was followed by fellow former DA and his supervisor at the time, Michael Gray, who testified that Mattern was exclusively responsible for handling the question. Under cross-examination Gray stated that Mattern should have “done something about” the confession.
Through cross-examination, while Mattern attempted to redirect and redirect into conversation about why he did not launch an in-depth investigation into the Holmes confession when he received it, it was revealed repeatedly that whether Mattern felt like investigating the information was beside the point. He had no responsibility to investigate it, but had a legal and ethical obligation to hand it over to the Fairbanks Four’s attorneys. His thoughts on the exculpatory evidence were not important in the least, the fact that it was clearly exculpatory evidence mattered, and after enough questioning the flustered DA simply could not rationalize the failure to act.
Mattern and Gray, whose testimony underscored the systematic failure and incredible denial in the case, were followed by Detective Nolan of the Fairbanks Police Department. Nolan, unlike the prosecutors, testified that he should have investigated the confession and simply did not. He acknowledged that it was a failure, and essentially admitted to having made a mistake. Nolan’s honesty and candid testimony were refreshing because although he did not take action he did not bother with the DA’s approach of pretending that was okay.
The attorneys and detective were followed by Paul Solomon, a man who claimed the petitioners assaulted him early in the day that Hartman was eventually killed. He knew none of the men and came forward while drunk during an arrest in 2013. Solomon’s testimony was videotaped as he was not willing or available to testify in court, as has been the case with the other witnesses for the state who offer similar statements. Solomon contradicted himself repeatedly even in the brief videotape.In a nutshell, however, he testified that early in the day of October 10, 1997 (he later said he could not remember the day) he came out of the Cabaret bar with a blonde woman whom he cannot identify. He said that when he came out the Fairbanks Four were standing there and asked him for a cigarette. He replied that he did not smoke. According to Solomon, the four then attacked him, but he was able to land punches on at least three. He says he filed a police report (no record) and that the other bar patrons saw it (no one has ever come forward).
Once again, when the Solomon testimony was finished, we were flooded with messages from people who know him, including is own family members, who reported that he is mentally ill and a chronic alcoholic. He is also a relative of Veronica Solomon, who provided equally strange testimony in the case. Both of the Solomon witnesses provided testimony which essentially nullified itself through many inconsistencies and credibility issues with the speaker.
In all, the day did little to move the state’s case against exoneration forward.