State won't use Harmon disclosures

As part of deal, defense will allow possibly incriminating statements made on video after his arrest

Posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Prosecutors have agreed not to use statements that James Harmon allegedly made to an undercover state trooper when they try Harmon next month for the 2003 killing of Tenakee Springs resident Maggie Wigen.

"That evidence will not be part of the trial," Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen told Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens Monday at a hearing scheduled for attorneys to argue the admissibility of the statements.

Harmon's defense charged in a late February motion that troopers improperly used psychological pressure to coerce statements they needed to arrest him. In response, the prosecution charged the defense with "speculating and making false accusations." Prosecutors also cited higher court rulings to argue the trooper didn't violate Harmon's constitutional rights.

Monday, attorneys presented an agreement to Stephens, assigned to preside over Harmon's Juneau case. While the agreement excludes evidence or testimony from the undercover officer at trial, it adds that the defense will not contest the introduction of possibly incriminating statements Harmon, now 26, made on videotape after his May 20, 2004, arrest.

It also states that if Harmon takes the witness stand, his statements to the undercover officer could be used in rebuttal to his testimony, if Stephens finds them admissible.

Gullufsen and Assistant Public Defender David Seid declined to elaborate on the agreement Monday, referring to the document itself. Gullufsen said it included concessions on both side. He would not discuss his reasons publicly.

Jury selection in Harmon's trial is scheduled to begin April 5.

Less than two weeks before Harmon was arrested, he allegedly incriminated himself while talking to a trooper he believed to be a Kodiak man who was in Juneau avoiding a sexual-assault investigation.

Seid had planned to call an expert on false confessions to dispute Harmon's alleged statements to the undercover officer.

A grand jury indicted Harmon on charges of first- and second-degree murder, first-degree sexual assault and attempted sexual assault and second-degree theft relating to Wigen's death. The 19-year-old woman, who split time between Juneau and Tenakee Springs, about 45 miles southwest of the capital, was found buried in a dam at the stream near her Tenakee Springs cabin on April 1, 2003.

Wigen disappeared after she returned to the Chichagof Island village by ferry on March 22, 2003. Harmon, who had recently returned to Tenakee Springs from a brief enlistment in the Army, had been hired to work on the dam.

Stephens devoted Monday's scheduled hearing to Seid's motion to suppress other testimony the prosecution plans to present as evidence against Harmon.

Seid is arguing that the troopers overstepped their authority in searching Harmon on April 3, 2003 in Juneau. He wrote that the court should prevent them from using what they found or anything that it led them to find.

The only witness to testify was trooper Sgt. Randy McPherron, who described how the warrant he used was obtained from Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins.

During the search, officers found Harmon with $109; a receipt for a cash-bought airplane ticket from Sitka to Juneau; receipts for purchases from several Juneau stores and a deposit receipt from Wells Fargo Bank, McPherron said.

He testified that troopers determined that the morning Wigen's body was discovered, Harmon opened an account at Wells Fargo in Juneau. He said the investigation later determined that the account was opened with five $100 bills.

Troopers had learned that Wigen came to Tenakee Springs with 12 $100 bills from her mother. Troopers did not find those bills in the cabin or with Wigen's body, he said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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