Court officials on Monday deferred setting a trial date for Matthew Bowe, who was charged in the 2016 fatal shooting of a man on a fishing vessel in Kodiak’s St. Herman Harbor.
Kodiak District Attorney Gustaf Olson cited concerns about COVID-19 restrictions as one reason for the delayed decision.
In November, Alaska Chief Justice Joel Bolger ordered all criminal jury trials in the state to remain suspended until March 15.
However, attorneys say Bowe’s trial is unlikely to occur in March because of travel and quarantine restrictions.
At an evidentiary hearing on Monday, Olson said the state had significant concerns about trying to gather a jury by March under Gov. Mike Dunelavy’s health mandates and pandemic-related restrictions, as well as Kodiak’s current “red” risk status.
He said that if a jury member were to test positive for the virus, the entire jury would have to quarantine. People traveling from out of state to testify would also have to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
Public defender Craig Howard, who is representing Bowe, said his client’s trial is unlikely to occur in the next 90 days, considering the backlog of trials that will need to be held once the criminal courts reopen.
He noted that the recent “complete clamp down” prohibiting some inmate movement and transfers imposed by the Alaska Department of Corrections means he will not be able to visit Bowe until the restrictions are lifted. Bowe is being held at the Anchorage Correctional Complex.
Selecting a trial date is further complicated by scheduling issues among the attorneys and the judge, who are unavailable at different times late in the summer and fall.
The trial was originally set for November 2018, then delayed to November 2020 before being postponed again after Olson gained access to calls Bowe made at the Anchorage jail.
Judge Steve Cole said the trial date will be decided at another time.
Bowe, 32, faces first- and second-degree murder charges and three third-degree assault charges for the Feb. 7, 2016, fatal shooting of Welton Albers on a fishing vessel in St. Herman Harbor.
According to court documents, Bowe claimed he shot and killed Albers in self-defense. Witnesses said that Bowe and Albers were arguing before the incident. Bowe allegedly told investigators that he shot Albers four to five times with an AR-15 rifle.
Bowe was arrested after the incident. A breathalyzer test showed that Bowe had a 0.268% blood alcohol level, more than three times the legal limit for driving.