Defendant in Wigen case will dispute evidence, statements

Posted: Sunday, February 27, 2005

The attorney for James D. Harmon, charged with raping and killing Maggie Wigen in Tenakee Springs nearly two years ago, gave notice last week that he plans to call expert witnesses to dispute scientific evidence and question statements his client allegedly made to state troopers.

In paperwork filed in Juneau Superior Court late last week, Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen charged that the timing of the expert-witness notice "leaves the state at a great disadvantage in this case."

The case has been assigned to Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens, although it is scheduled to be held in Juneau beginning April 4.

After his arrest in May 2004, Harmon, now 26, was indicted by a grand jury on both first- and second-degree murder counts in the 2003 death of Wigen, 19. He also was charged with first-degree sexual assault, first-degree attempted sexual assault and second-degree theft in the killing.

Wigen was last seen in late March 2003. Her body was found on April 1, 2003, buried near the cabin where she lived while in the Chichagof Island community about 45 miles southwest of Juneau.

The indictment also charged Harmon with attempted first-degree sexual assault against Wigen and another woman at a cabin after a community New Year's Eve party almost four months before Wigen was killed.

In justifying the charges for the arrest, Gullufsen wrote that Harmon had told an undercover state trooper that he killed Wigen and sexually assaulted her, court records show.

Assistant Public Defender David Seid gave notice last week that he plans to call Richard J. Ofshe, a professor emeritus at the University of California-Berkeley, and Simon A. Cole from the University of California-Irvine.

He described Cole as an expert in the unreliability of such evidence as fingerprints.

Ofshe, who since 2002 has been a fellow for the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, is an expert on improper influence in police interrogation, Seid wrote.

Seid also filed a motion last week to separate from the murder charges the charges that alleged attempted sexual assault months before the killing. Including them in the same case would prejudice jurors against his client, he wrote.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at

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