Man pleads not guilty at arraignment for 2015 double murder

District Attorney expects lengthy, complex trial to be handled by state

Ten days after being indicted for allegedly committing a double murder, Laron Carlton Graham sat in Juneau Superior Court on Monday and pleaded not guilty.

 

On Feb. 16, a Juneau grand jury indicted Graham, 40, for two counts of first-degree murder for the Nov. 15, 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth K. Tonsmeire. Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip M. Pallenberg said Monday that each charge carries a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.

Graham was in prison at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, but has now been transferred down to Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau to await his trial. The trial date will be scheduled at a hearing next Tuesday, and District Attorney Angie Kemp said this complex of a trial will last about seven weeks.

The Alaska Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions will handle the case, Kemp said, instead of the Juneau District Attorney’s Office.

“It would be a big resource draw from this office to try and handle a case of this magnitude for what I expect the length of the trial to be,” Kemp said.

The indictment released earlier this month included 50 search warrants and 17 witnesses. Some of those witnesses are currently incarcerated, with some of them coming from Juneau. Eric Hedland from the Public Defender Agency has represented or is currently representing a few of them, he said Monday, so he will not be handling the case.

Pallenberg said the Office of Public Advocacy will assign an attorney to Graham.

Graham pointed out that defense attorney Nick Polasky — who sat in as Graham’s lawyer Monday — seems to have a good base of knowledge about this case and would be happy to have Polasky represent him. Pallenberg said the Office of Public Advocacy usually picks an attorney for the defendant, so Polasky might not get that assignment.

Polasky is not formally Graham’s attorney, so Pallenberg entered the not guilty plea on Graham’s behalf.

The last time Graham was in front of Pallenberg, he didn’t use a lawyer. He represented himself in a 2016 trial during which Graham was convicted on counts of felony vehicle theft, robbery, assault and witness tampering. He was also found guilty of nine misdemeanors, including violating a domestic violence protective order and for trespassing at the Gruening Park apartment where he threatened to throw his then-girlfriend out of a window while she was holding her 1-year-old child.

At Monday’s hearing, Graham seemed relaxed. He leaned back in his chair for much of the time, standing up to pour himself a cup of water while Pallenberg was speaking at one point. He spoke a few times quietly with Polasky, who sat alongside Graham.

Though Graham is already incarcerated, Kemp asked that bail be set for $250,000. She said she used to have a better feel for conditions of release, but with state laws changing back and forth about that the past couple years she said she wanted to be safe and impose bail anyway. Pallenberg agreed to set the bail at $250,000.

It’s not clear what evidence came to light to indict Graham on the years-old crime, and Kemp said there will likely not be very many details released until the trial.

“You’ve heard us say this a couple times, but we really have to make sure that we don’t do anything to jeopardize his ability to get a fair trial,” Kemp said after the hearing. “That’s something that you never want to risk in any case, let alone a case of this magnitude.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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