After four days of questioning, attorneys agreed late Thursday on a jury for the trial of the man charged with raping and killing 19-year-old Maggie Wigen two years ago in Tenakee Springs.
But with one juror unable to return to court until after the weekend because of medical issues, the judge presiding in the Juneau case told the group to expect opening statements Monday morning.
Defendant James Harmon, 26, who has been lodged at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center since his arrest last May 20, faces charges of murder, both in the first- and second-degree; sexual assault and attempted sexual assault, both in the first-degree; and second-degree theft in Wigen's 2003 death. The woman's body was found buried in a dam at a stream near the cabin she rented in the Chichagof Island community about 45 miles southwest of Juneau.
After days of jury selection, Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens thanked those not selected and excused them.
"I wish I could excuse you (from jury duty) for the month, because you've done a month's worth of work," Stephens said. "But I can't."
Responding to calls Monday and Tuesday, 86 prospective jurors showed up for the Harmon trial. An arson trial that started with jury selection at the Dimond Courthouse Monday morning concluded several hours before the Harmon jury was seated.
Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen asked prospective jurors if they could convict in a case based on circumstantial evidence. He told them there were no witnesses who saw the murder committed.
Court-appointed defense attorneys David Seid and Julie Willoughby focused on what jurors had read or heard of the case. Most of their legal challenges to excuse jurors were based on the Empire's coverage of the defense's opposition to the use of statements Harmon allegedly made to an undercover state trooper before his arrest. That opposition ended with both sides agreeing the issue would not be introduced at trial.
Thursday morning, Seid renewed his motion to move the trial out of Juneau due to extensive pretrial publicity. Attorneys were scheduled to argue that issue before Stephens this morning.
Tony Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.