Attorneys prep for complex murder trial

Defendant transferred to Anchorage to be closer to lawyer

The task of preparing for a complex murder trial has proven difficult for the defense attorney in the case, as she said Thursday that she’s still missing thousands of pages of discovery in the case.

 

Attorney Natasha Norris from the Office of Public Advocacy is representing Laron Graham, who is accused of first-degree murder for the Nov. 15, 2015 shooting deaths of 36-year-old Robert H. Meireis and 34-year-old Elizabeth Tonsmeire. During a hearing Thursday, Norris said she is still missing FBI reports, police reports, grand jury exhibits and several AT&T phone records.

“When I say ‘several,’” Norris said, “I mean 20,000 pages of reports.”

Graham, 40, was present in court Thursday but neither Norris nor Assistant Attorney General John Darnall were. They both called into the hearing. Norris said she’s sending Darnall, who is prosecuting the case for the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Prosecutions, a detailed list Friday morning of all the discovery she is missing.

She said some of the discovery — specifically the grand jury exhibits — has been sent to her but the electronic files are malfunctioning.

The trial is set for Feb. 19, 2019, and attorneys have estimated the case will take about seven weeks. Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg said he doesn’t want to fall behind schedule. He acknowledged that there are staffing shortages throughout the state’s court system, but that offices should make time to get discovery to the defense.

“I don’t want things to not get done because people are busy and they’re doing something else,” Pallenberg said. “This is an important case and should be a priority.”

Pallenberg, who said at a hearing June that he wants to have regular hearings to stay up-to-date on this case, scheduled a hearing for 3 p.m. Aug. 7 to get an update from the attorneys.

Graham is currently being held at Lemon Creek Correctional Center on an unrelated conviction. In a 2016 trial, a jury found Graham guilty of felony vehicle theft, robbery, assault and witness tampering, along with nine misdemeanors relating to domestic violence and trespassing.

Graham won’t be at LCCC much longer, though, as Pallenberg granted permission Thursday to have Graham transferred up to Anchorage to be closer to Norris. Graham will have to be physically present in court for his eventual trial and pretrial hearings, but he’ll have the option to appear via telephone at hearings leading up to those, Pallenberg said.


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


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