Kowalski murder cold case to go to jury today

Robert D. Kowalski chooses not to testify in his own defense

A Juneau jury will begin deciding the case against an alleged killer today.

 

Attorneys say the case will go to the jury after closing arguments at 9:30 a.m. this morning in Juneau Superior Court.

The defense for Robert D. Kowalski, who is facing two counts of murder for fatally shooting his girlfriend at a Yakutat lodge 17 years ago, rested its case on Tuesday. Kowalski choose not to take the witness stand to testify in his own defense.

Prosecutors say Kowalski, 53, intentionally killed 39-year-old Sandra M. Perry in Room 10 of Glacier Bear Lodge following an argument about 3 a.m. July 21, 1996. Kowalski maintains the shooting was an accident.

He was not charged at the time, but Alaska investigators re-opened the case after Kowalski was convicted of criminally negligent homicide for fatally shooting his girlfriend in Montana in 2008. Assistant Attorney General James Fayette calls the two cases “shockingly similar.”

Kowalski attorney Eric Hedland moved for a motion of acquittal on Tuesday, saying the state did not put on any evidence to prove Kowalski killed Perry intentionally. Judge Louis Menendez denied the motion.

Hedland also requested a special jury instruction in light of the fact that most of the physical evidence from the case was destroyed by Alaska State Troopers in 1998. Menendez granted that request.

The instruction tells the jury that the evidence was not destroyed in bad faith but the state still has a duty to preserve evidence. Since it was not, the jury must view the lost evidence as favorable to Kowalski.

Before the defense rested, Hedland recalled the medical examiner who performed Perry’s autopsy. Now retired, Norman Thompson testified about Perry’s toxicology reports, which initially tested positive for traces of amphetamines. A follow-up test indicated negative for amphetamines. Kowalski’s drug tests tested negative for illegal drugs, according to his autopsy report, Thompson said.

The couple had been drinking the night of the shooting.

The defense’s forensic expert was on the stand for a good portion of the morning testifying about the crime scene. The lead trooper in charge of the case was also recalled.

Attorneys spent the rest of the afternoon finalizing jury instructions.

Sixteen jurors heard the evidence in the case during a four-week period. One was excused last week due to a planned familial obligation.

After closing arguments, three jurors will be randomly selected as alternates and dismissed. Twelve will decide the case.

If convicted, Kowalski could face life in prison. He is already serving a 40-year prison sentence in connection to the Montana homicide.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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