Defense seeks postponement of Maggie Wigen murder trial

Posted: Friday, January 14, 2005

March is too soon to try the man charged with raping and killing Maggie Wigen in Tenakee Springs in 2003, his attorney wrote in a motion filed with the court this week.

For James Harmon to get the effective representation to which he is constitutionally entitled, his trial should be postponed until late summer or early fall, David Seid wrote.

Harmon's trial is scheduled to last the entire month of March in Juneau Superior Court before Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens.

Seid cited other cases he is handling, his supervising duties at the understaffed Public Defender's Office and the volume of prosecution evidence in the Harmon case - including more than 1,200 pages of reports - as factors for his request. Stephens scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to hear Seid's argument.

Harmon, 26, was arrested in May in the death of Wigen, 19, who disappeared at the end of March 2003. Neighbors in the Chichagof Island village found her buried at a stream near the cabin where she had been living.

In court, Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen alleged that Harmon made incriminating statements to a trooper working undercover.

Seid wrote that he is still waiting for recordings of "wired conversations" between the trooper and his client.

The grand jury indictment charged Harmon with first- and second-degree murder in Wigen's death, first-degree sexual assault, attempted first-degree sexual assault and second-degree theft. It additionally charges Harmon with two counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault against Wigen and a friend, almost two months before Wigen was killed.

Seid intends to seek dismissal of the indictment, he wrote. He also hopes to suppress some statements from being used as evidence against his client, to sever the two alleged earlier attempted sexual assaults from the case and to move the trial out of Juneau.

"It is clear this case will not settle short of trial, and there are complex issues involved," Seid wrote. "If (Harmon) loses at trial, the prosecution will vociferously argue for the functional equivalent of life in prison."

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