Woman in USVI murder trial says agent interfered

AP News
Posted: Oct 27, 2010 8:36 PM
Woman in USVI murder trial says agent interfered

The girlfriend of a man fatally shot by a U.S. federal agent on trial for murder verbally sparred with a defense lawyer for four hours Wednesday, again denying she requested the officer's help and saying she repeatedly asked the agent and other neighbors to keep out of her argument with the boyfriend that day.

Margie Duncan accused her neighbors, including William Clark, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, of intruding in her personal affairs in testimony punctuated by occasional laughter from Clark's supporters in a packed courtroom.

A federal investigation of the shooting, which took place when Clark intervened in the domestic dispute, found that it was justified. But local police charged Clark with second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

Federal authorities say the case has affected agents assigned to the U.S. Caribbean territory to the point where they hesitate to respond to a crime out of fear they will be prosecuted.

Duncan replied to most of defense attorney Mark Schamel's questions by saying she did not remember certain incidents leading up to the Sept. 7, 2008, shooting outside her St. Thomas apartment.

"It was two years ago and there's been a lot of trauma since, thank you," she said.

Duncan testified Tuesday that she and her 44-year-old boyfriend, Marcus Sukow, did not have an abusive relationship.

But under cross-examination, she said the couple had a fight three months before the shooting when he showed up at a restaurant and threw a glass of water at her and several friends. In that group was one of Duncan's daughters, who had sent an e-mail telling her mother that she did not like Sukow and did not want her to be with him.

"That's her opinion," Duncan testified, adding that Sukow apologized for the incident.

Duncan bristled when asked how much Sukow had to drink that night in July 2008, saying she was not in the habit of counting how many beers anyone drank.

The day of the shooting, Sukow _ who was married to someone else _ wanted to talk to her about marriage. She said she did not want to have the conversation and left to pick up the morning paper after they arrived at the apartment.

The couple had eaten brunch at an Irish pub earlier that Sunday morning, and a medical examiner determined Sukow's blood-alcohol level was 0.29 _ nearly four times the legal DWI limit in many U.S. states.

According to court documents on the day of the shooting, Sukow damaged her car with a large, heavy flashlight when Clark came out of his apartment to go to the gym, saw what was happening and asked if everything was OK. Duncan said she told him to stay out of it.

"I did not plead to Clark," she said. "I did not."

The security guard at the apartment testified Tuesday that Sukow hit Duncan's car with a flashlight. Duncan said the dents on both sides of her car were caused by previous accidents.

Duncan said she then asked Clark for a ride to pick up the newspaper at the guard's booth when Sukow approached and raised the flashlight above his head.

"It was not menacingly," she said, adding that Sukow then stepped back and was nearly 11 feet away with his hands at his side when he was shot five times.

Other witnesses have said Sukow lunged at Clark and hit his car with the flashlight before he was shot.

Clark caught Sukow before he fell to the ground and asked for towels so he could compress them against Sukow's chest where he had been shot, Duncan said.

"He was shaking so hard that he couldn't, so the security guard took over," she said.

About three weeks after the shooting, Duncan testified, she sent a letter to detectives disavowing statements she made at the scene, saying they were untrue and not an accurate reflection of what she said.

She said she had asked Clark and other neighbors to not intervene.

"I just wanted to let everybody go back to their own personal business and stop gawking at us," she said.

Clark could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Defense lawyers say the agent from Rochester, New York, has worked as a law enforcement officer for 13 years, four of those with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and nine with the ATF.

(This version CORRECTS time reference in graf 10 and years Clark worked at CBP, ATF)