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Closing arguments heard in trial of alleged heroin dealer

Posted: August 1, 2011 - 9:29pm

Attorneys delivered closing arguments in Juneau Superior Court Monday in the trial of a Juneau man accused of selling heroin and attacking a witness against him.

Jose Perez, 36, is being tried on one count of misconduct involving a controlled substance and two counts of interference with official proceedings.

Attorneys on each side accused the other of offering up red herrings. Defense attorney Kevin Higgins said the prosecution’s use of his client’s Dominican Republic passport to prove he was in a location where drugs and weapons were found was a distraction technique, as the state could have used other evidence to prove he was there.

Higgins attacked the credibility of many of the prosecution’s witnesses in his closing remarks.

“We have addicts, we have thieves, and we have hustlers,” he said. “Because they didn’t hesitate to act in their dealings they got busted. Now they find themselves making deals, trying to undo everything they did and the state wants you to trust them.”

Higgins also emphasized the prosecution’s burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“In your important affairs a defendant is never to be convicted on mere suspicion or conjecture,” Higgins said. “The state doesn’t want you to be distracted by red herrings and neither do I.”

He also emphasized what, in his view, was a reliance by the prosecution on circumstantial evidence. He used a fable of a warrior named Wolfen who, returning home from battle, found his dog covered in blood, with teeth bared, and his wife and child nowhere to be found. The warrior, assuming the dog had killed the wife and child, killed it, only to later discover the wife and child unharmed, and that the blood came from two larger dogs that had tried to attack his family.

“So it is true direct and circumstantial evidence are both admissible,” Higgins said. “And they are both are to be considered by you. And the instruction is true that neither is to be given more weight. But Wolfen acted on circumstantial evidence.”

Meanwhile, Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp cautioned jurors not to read too much in to Higgins’ attacks on the character of certain prosecution witnesses. She acknowledged the informants are drug dealers and have a motive for what they are doing.

“By all accounts they have something to lose,” Kemp said. “The only thing they have to give is their source. It takes a dealer to catch a dealer, you move up the chain.”

Kemp said evidence of Perez’ guilt was when he “whupped” an informant in jail.

“Isn’t that evidence of his guilt?” Kemp asked. “There is a code in Lemon Creek. You don’t rat, you don’t snitch and if you do you get whupped. It certainly had the effect of scaring the dealer.”

Jurors are expected to return a verdict today.

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@juneauempire.com.

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