City man’s request for court-appointed expert witnesses denied

Stiver seeks to use Castle Doctrine to justify actions in fatal shooting

HOLLIDAYSBURG — An Altoona man’s desire to use the Castle Doctrine to justify his actions in the 2018 fatal shooting of David Alan Hoover Jr. will remain on hold pending evidence offered at trial.

While Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan denied requests for self-defense and shooting scene reconstruction experts on behalf of John P. Stiver II, the judge left the door open for Stiver’s possible use of a self-defense argument to challenge the homicide and related charges.

“Our ruling herein denying the defendant’s request for a court-appointed expert witness in no way precludes the defendant from asserting a self-defense/justification defense at the time of trial,” Sullivan said.

But the judge will have to decide if the Castle Doctrine — which governs the use of deadly force in connection with protection of self or family — can be included within jury instructions.

While defense attorney Kristen Anastasti contends that Stiver is entitled to use the Castle Doctrine in his defense, First Assistant District Attorney Pete Weeks is on record against it.

At a June 18 court hearing, Weeks pointed out that Stiver was in possession of an illegal firearm when he opened fire and killed the 58-year-old Hoover in a church parking lot at Second Street and Fourth Avenue.

The Castle Doctrine cannot be invoked, Sullivan’s ruling acknowledges, “if the actor is engaged in a criminal activity or is using the dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle to further a criminal activity.”

“We will defer any decision relative thereto until after admission of the evidence during trial and prior to closing arguments,” Sullivan said in his ruling.

Altoona police who charged Stiver say that on the day Hoover was shot, Stiver and Hoover were involved in a cocaine deal that turned sour and led to a high-speed chase in the city. That chase ended in the church parking lot where police said Stiver armed himself with a loaded shotgun and waited for Hoover to arrive.

At the June 18 court hearing, Anastasi said witnesses reported seeing Hoover brandishing a gun and a baseball bat as he approached Stiver’s vehicle, thereby putting Stiver in a position of having to defend himself.

But in court documents, Weeks maintains that Stiver and his co-conspirators are the only ones claiming Hoover had a gun.

Sullivan’s latest ruling also permits prosecutors to include Stiver’s statements to police as trial evidence.

Anastasi raised questions about the legality of those statements and how they were secured.

But Sullivan concluded that Altoona Detective Sgt. Terry Merritts rendered credible testimony during the June 18 court hearing about the procedures used to collect and document Stiver’s statements.

The judge also reported that the case will be scheduled for a review conference on Sept. 19. At that time, a schedule could be established with dates for jury selection and trial.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.