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Morrell v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

September 25, 2009

Jack E. MORRELL, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Alaska, Appellee.

Page 575

Renee McFarland, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

Nancy R. Simel, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Talis J. Colberg, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before : COATS, Chief Judge, and MANNHEIMER and BOLGER, Judges.

OPINION

BOLGER, Judge.

Jack E. Morrell killed Eric Kalenka by stabbing him several times in the leg outside of a Taco Bell restaurant. We conclude that there was sufficient evidence to support Morrell's resulting conviction for second-degree murder. We also conclude that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion by admitting evidence that Morrell had smoked marijuana and had four ounces of marijuana in his vehicle. We further conclude that Morrell's sentence of 60 years' imprisonment with 10 years suspended was not clearly mistaken.

Background

Erik Kalenka and his girlfriend, Christine Giles, went to the drive-through at the Taco Bell on Fifth Avenue after a night of playing video games. Jack Morrell and his cousins, Paul and William Wassili, also went to the Taco Bell after spending four to five hours drinking at Chilkoot Charlie's.

While Kalenka and Giles were waiting in the drive-through line, Morrell's Chevy Suburban struck the rear bumper of Kalenka's rented Subaru. Kalenka got out of the Subaru to assess the damage and asked Morrell to move the Suburban so that Kalenka could see the back of his car. Morrell refused to move, saying something to the effect of " Why are you white people always fucking with us Natives?" Kalenka responded by pulling out his phone and dialing 911.

The encounter then escalated: Morrell grabbed Kalenka by the collar and shoved him against the Subaru. Kalenka stated that he did not want to fight-he just wanted Morrell's information because the Subaru was a rental. The fight continued as Morrell produced a folding knife from his pocket and punctured the Subaru's rear tire. Paul and William Wassili exited the Suburban, and Claude Doucet, the driver of the car behind the Suburban, also got out of his vehicle.

The fight continued to escalate, and Morrell and Kalenka began to roll around on the ground. Then Kalenka screamed that he had been stabbed, and Doucet and William Wassili pulled Morrell off Kalenka. Kalenka,

Page 576

who was bleeding and having trouble walking, got back into the Subaru and asked Giles to get an ambulance. While Giles was speaking with the 911 operator, Kalenka became unresponsive and then died.

Medical Examiner Frank Fallico conducted the autopsy. Fallico testified that Kalenka died from multiple stab wounds: Kalenka suffered seven stab wounds to the left leg and one stab wound to the upper portion of his right leg, near the groin area. Fallico testified that one of the wounds, a stab wound above the knee on the left side of Kalenka's left leg, had been rapidly fatal because it nicked the popliteal artery, an extension of the femoral artery. Fallico also testified that Kalenka had wounds to his hands and face.

Morrell was indicted for second-degree murder [1] and first-degree robbery (for allegedly taking Kalenka's wallet).[2] Morrell claimed self-defense at trial, arguing that although Morrell started the fight, Kalenka escalated the fight, using deadly force by putting Morrell in a headlock, making it difficult for him to breathe.

The State presented evidence of marijuana metabolite in a blood sample taken from Morrell on the morning after his arrest, and evidence that there were over four ounces of marijuana found in his car. At trial, Morrell argued that the marijuana evidence should not be ...


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