ATF agent’s murder trial filled with drama
Published: October 26, 2010
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ST. THOMAS — The prosecution said William Clark intentionally used unreasonable force; the defense said he shot his neighbor Marcus Sukow to death in an act of self-defense.
Those were the theories advanced by each side to the 11 women and five men on the jury, which was empaneled Monday, about the events that resulted in Clark shooting Sukow five times, killing him.
Clark, 35, an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is standing trial on charges of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence, all stemming from the fatal shooting death of Sukow, 44, at the Mahogany Run condominiums.
Clark’s trial, which is being monitored closely by law enforcement officers nationwide, elected officials and media around the country, got under way Monday — after being rescheduled three times — with jury selection, followed two hours later by opening statements.
The prosecution team of Assistant V.I. Attorney General Claude Walker and Assistant V.I. Attorney General Douglas Sprotte theorized that Clark shot Sukow once in the back and four times in the chest while Sukow was carrying only a flashlight, cigarettes and a lighter.
Walker, the lead prosecutor, spent more than 20 minutes outlining to the jurors his version of what occurred the morning when Sukow was shot in the presence of his girlfriend, Marguerite “Margie” Duncan.
“Above the law, above the law, that’s what this case is all about,” Walker said. “The defendant came here from the states as a federal agent, and he killed a man named Marcus Sukow by shooting him — not once, not twice, not three times, he shot Marcus Sukow five times. Even in his back,`` he shot him. How could that happen? How that could be?”
Clark was transferred to the ATF field office in St. Thomas in April 2008; he fatally shot Sukow on Sept. 7, 2008.
Sukow and Duncan went to Molly Malone’s for brunch, as they customarily did on Sundays. After brunch, they planned to go to Magens Bay Beach, as also was the norm for them on Sundays, the day that they usually spent a lot of time together doing what they liked, according to Walker.
At Molly Malone’s, Sukow and Duncan had an American-style brunch — Duncan had two mimosas and Sukow had several beers. That day, Sukow was drunk.
After brunch, the couple returned to Mahogany Run to get ready to go to the beach, Walker said. When they got back to their unit, the two became embroiled in an argument about their relationship — Sukow raised the possibility of getting married, but Duncan, a recent divorcee, did not want to have that conversation. Sukow became angry, and he got loud; Duncan decided to go out and get a Sunday newspaper and give Sukow time to cool off, Walker said.
“She left the condo; Marcus followed her. She goes into her vehicle; Marcus is still loud and drunk,” Walker said.
A neighbor, Henry Carr, came out to do his exercises and heard Sukow being loud while Duncan was in her car, but he did not intervene; instead, he went over to one side to do his stretches, Walker said.
Clark came out of his condo and also heard the ruckus, Walker said. Clark asked Duncan whether she was okay, and she told him she was fine, Walker said. Clark asked Sukow whether he was okay, and Sukow told him to mind his own business, according to Walker.
Duncan saw Clark getting into his vehicle and asked him for a ride to the guard house to get the paper, and he agreed to give her the ride, Walker said. When Sukow saw Duncan in Clark’s vehicle, he called on Clark to let Duncan out of the vehicle. While holding a flashlight that he had retrieved from his car to take upstairs to use during brown-outs, Sukow approached Clark on the driver’s side, where the door still open, according to Walker.
At this point, Sukow had not physically assaulted or threatened anyone, Walker said.
“The defendant has a black bag. He unzips the black bag, pulls out a five-shot revolver, he points the gun at Marcus, who had his cigarette, his lighter and a flashlight,” Walker said. “Marcus backs away to the side of the defendant’s vehicle with his hands to his side, and said to him, ‘Are you going to shoot me?’ At that point, the defendant empties his gun on Marcus, shooting him once in the back and four times in the chest.”
The prosecution intends to rely on the testimony of Duncan, Carr and Rolando Smith, the security guard at the condominiums, as well as several other witnesses to prove its case.
“Yes, he was drunk. The evidence will show there were many options available to deal with the situation. To shoot Marcus or to even show the gun was uncalled for,” Walker said. “The defendant is in his car with the ability to drive off or back away, but he intentionally uses unreasonable force. I submit to you that when you get this case, you’ll find the defendant guilty of murder. No one is above the law in the Virgin Islands, no matter who you are,” Walker said.
In a dramatic presentation, defense attorney Vincent Cohen presented a starkly different account of that morning’s events, leading jurors to picture Sukow as an extremely intoxicated and large man waving around a flashlight menacingly.
“Marcus Sukow was big, weighed more than 260 pounds. Marcus Sukow’s blood alcohol level was .29, three times the legal driving limit. He was drunk, angry and out of control; that’s what the evidence is going to show,” Cohen said.
Cohen told the jury that the version of events recited by the prosecution was Duncan’s “made-up story that changes every single time she talks to someone.”
On the morning of Sept. 7, 2008, Clark showered, had breakfast and was on his way to the gym when he got caught in the web of Sukow’s and Duncan’s danger, madness and domestic violence, Cohen said. Within moments, Clark went from going to the gym to helping Duncan, because she was crying and pleading for help, to being forced to defend himself when he was being attacked by Sukow, according to Cohen.
Finding himself in the middle of disputes between Sukow and Duncan was nothing new for Clark, Cohen said. On previous occasions, Clark had been able to quell the disturbance and separate the couple, but that didn’t work on Sept. 7, 2008, Cohen said.
When Clark came out of his apartment that morning on his way to the gym, he encountered Duncan, who begged Clark to help her, Cohen said. Clark saw Sukow standing outside naked, pounding Duncan’s car with his fist, yelling, screaming and cursing with a flashlight in his hand, Cohen said. Clark put his gym bag, which contained his gun, inside his truck and locked the vehicle, Cohen said.
“Things began to spiral out of control,” Cohen said. Sukow was “out there naked for a while; he finally goes inside to put some shorts on. He was talking to Agent Clark, ‘ ----- you want a piece of me? I know you, big boy Will, and I’m going to give you a country ass-kicking. I’ve got a gun in there and I’m gonna blow this ------ head off,’’’ Cohen said Sukow told Clark.
Sukow also was throwing landscape rocks at Duncan’s car, and whenever Clark tried to calm him down, Sukow became more agitated, Cohen said.
Clark told Duncan to get in the car and leave, which she did, and when Clark got into his truck, Sukow went to his car and got a flashlight, Cohen said.
To demonstrate, Cohen borrowed a long, black flashlight from a court marshal.
“He never held it like this,” Cohen said, flicking on the flashlight and pointing it forward, “but like this, as a weapon,” he said, waving the flashlight in the air.
“He came with the flashlight and started banging on Margie Duncan’s car, creating dents in the hood of her car. Agent Clark saw that. If Marcus Sukow could take this and put dents in her car, he knew what this could do with his or anyone else’s head,” Cohen said.
Sukow also walked into the area where Carr and Smith were, and wielding the flashlight as a weapon, he hurled racial slurs at Carr, Cohen said.
While he was doing that, Duncan, who was scared, jumped into Clark’s car, where Clark was sitting with the door open, one foot inside the vehicle and the other foot on the ground, Cohen said.
Sukow then became more upset when he saw Duncan in Clark’s vehicle, Cohen said, and holding the flashlight, Sukow went over to Clark, and told him to let Duncan out of the car, according to Cohen.
“Agent Clark is sitting in his car as Marcus Sukow is coming toward him. Agent Clark defends himself, not because he wants to, but because he has to. You’ll learn that they’re pretty close when Agent Clark reaches back and pulls his gun and fires his weapon,” Cohen told the jury. “You’ll learn that when Agent Clark fired, Marcus Sukow was pretty close. He wasn’t counting; he didn’t even know whether he hit him or not. Marcus Sukow was inside the doorway of Agent Clark’s car, so when Agent Clark is firing, he’s firing not knowing how many times he hit him or if he hit him because there was no noise, no screaming, he didn’t drop to the ground. When the shots went off, Marcus Sukow was still standing in front of Agent Clark.”
Cohen said Sukow was not shot in the back, but in the front when he turned to raise the flashlight like a weapon.
“Agent Clark was forced to protect his own life, and that’s what he did. When you hear all the evidence in this case, you will know Agent Clark is not guilty of murder, he was not trying to kill Marcus Sukow,” Cohen said. “We’ll ask you to come back with the only true and just verdict in this, and that will be not guilty.”
Clark is a 13-year veteran federal agent, with four years working for U.S. Customs and Border Protection and nine years for the ATF.
Attorneys Kerry Drue and Mark Schamel also are on the defense team in Clark’s trial, which continues today with the prosecution presenting its case.
— Contact reporter Corliss Smithen at 774-8772 ext. 302 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.