Bart Dickinson: The Legal System Twists & Turns

September 21, 1988
Sitka Daily Sentinel
ANCHORAGE (AP) – A superior court judge has reversed the murder conviction of a Big Lake man, six years after his trial and nearly three years after the Court of Appeals refused to take similar action. Judge Seaborn Buckalew ordered a new trial for Keith Mux on the grounds that Mux was not told statements he made to a psychiatrist could be used against him at trial. A spokesman for the Anchorage district attorney said no decision has been made about appealing Buckalew’s order or retrying Mux, who now is jailed in Ketchikan.

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Mux was 19 years old on Feb. 27, 1982, when he was accused of killing another youth, Bart Dickinson, with a .22-caliber rifle and wounding Michael Medgard. The youths had been part of a beer and marijuana party earlier in the evening and got into a fight over damage to a pickup truck.

Prosecutors said Mux armed himself and, with several friends, sought a confrontation with the unarmed victims and shot them at a mobile home near the Big Lake airport. A jury convicted Mux of first-degree murder and attempted murder. He had no prior criminal history. Buckalew, who presided over the trial, sentenced him to the mandatory minimum of 20 years.

Big Lake (Call of the Wild fire)

Mux’s attorneys have been trying since then to get his conviction reversed on the grounds that his trial attorney, Richard McVeigh, failed to argue self-defense or heat of passion to the jury, and failed to take usual steps to ensure a psychiatric interview, ordered by the court in connection with a bail hearing, could not be entered in evidence at trial. The interview, which included Mux’s description of the shootings, was used to undercut his trial testimony when he claimed he did not fully remember what happened.

In 1985, the state appeals court rejected Mux’s plea for a new trial. Earlier this year, Mux’s attorney, A. Lee Peterson, sought a rehearing before Buckalew. In an order dated Sept. 16, Buckalew concluded that Mux was not denied effective counsel. However, he also concluded that Mux did not knowingly waive his constitutional right against self-incrimination when he followed McVeigh’s instructions and talked to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist examined Mux to determine whether he was too dangerous to be released on bail. The doctor concluded he was not dangerous and he eventually was released.

McVeigh, now a municipal attorney, said he has mixed feelings about the ruling. “I’m glad he got a new trial,” he said. “I’m a defense counsel and I didn’t like the verdict, obviously, in the first place.” But McVeigh questioned the judge’s conclusion that he should have made sure Mux understood in detail what rights he might be giving up by talking about the crime. It was his understanding the psychiatric report would not be used at trial, McVeigh said.

April 5, 1991
Sitka Daily Sentinel
Ketchikan Man Strikes Deal On Plea in 1982 Murder KETCHIKAN (AP) — A Ketchikan man has pleaded no contest to reduced murder charges stemming from a 1982 killing in a case that has been tied up in court for almost 10 years. Keith Mux, 28, was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Bart Dickinson of Palmer in Big Lake in 1982. Mux, then 19, had been charged with killing Dickinson and wounding another man with gunfire during a fight over a broken car windshield.

The conviction had been affirmed by the state Court of Appeals and was pending before the Alaska Supreme Court. Mux has been out on bail since 1988, when Superior Court Judge S.J. Buckalew ordered that he be given a new trial on the grounds that his original lawyer was ineffective. Buckalew’s order was still pending appeal by the state.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Jahnke, Ketchikan (1985)

Under the plea bargain, Mux would plead no contest to second-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. He would be sentenced to 20 years on the murder charge and six years for attempted murder, to be served concurrently. Mux has served about four years in jail since the 1982 incident. He would have to serve another 20 years before becoming eligible for parole. As part of the agreement, the state would drop its appeal.

Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Thomas Jahnke has not decided whether or not to accept the agreement, according to Superior Court log notes. Sentencing is scheduled for April 21.

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