by Phillip Manning
The trial of Samuel Clark for the alleged murder of Dirk Fast inside the Latitude 62 Motel and Lounge on October 29, 2010 has concluded. Officially, Clark was charged with Murder in the First Degree and two counts of Murder in the Second degree for the shooting of Fast. On Tuesday, August 14th, Clark took the stand in his own defense, after which the defense rested. On Wednesday, the jury heard closing arguments from both the State prosecutors and Clark’s defense. The prosecution made their final push for a conviction on the charge of all three murder counts. The defense asked the jury to return a not-guilty verdict on both the Murder 1 and Murder 2 charges and only consider the charge of manslaughter. Whether Clark shot fast has not been at issue, as accounts of State Troopers showed that Clark admitted to the shooting. Clark’s position has always been that he felt his life in danger and acted only in self-defense.
After the closing arguments, the jury retired to deliberate at around 11:00 am. After just over an hour, the jury returned with a verdict, but a technicality had arisen. The verdict found Samuel Clark guilty of both Murder 1 and Murder 2, but acquitted him on the charge of manslaughter. This prompted the defense to move for a mistrial, but the State argued that since manslaughter was the least severe charge, that the jury should be polled to determine if they actually believed Clark not guilty of manslaughter, or whether they considered the charge moot, given the convictions on the more serious murder charges.
Judge Eric Smith consented to the polling of the jury via questionnaire. The jury members responded that because they had unanimously found Clark guilty on all three murder charges, that they considered the lesser manslaughter charge voided.
Some of Talkeetna’s residents have taken to Facebook to share their continuing support of Dirk’s family.
Clark’s sentencing hearing is set for November 16, 2012. Each murder conviction can carry maximum sentence of 99 years.