Harmon did not receive fair trial

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, May 23, 2005

My heart is heavy as I write this letter. I am still in shock from the guilty verdict placed upon my son James Harmon for second- degree murder, first-degree sexual assault and second-degree theft in the Tenakee case. I believe James is innocent and was wrongfully convicted. James did not receive a fair trial and, indeed, was "zeroed in on ... already convicted and hung" before the jury trial had even begun (Roger Lewis, "Can Tenakee change?" May 15).

James' constitutional rights were violated by conducting the trial in Juneau. Several of the jurors had read the pre-trial publicity prior to being impaneled as "impartial" jurors. This is in direct conflict of their jury instructions. These same individuals stated that the pretrial publicity would not affect their capabilities to serve as impartial jurors. I believe the pretrial publicity routinely circulated in the Juneau Empire did affect their judgment as jurors. How could they serve impartially after reading the prejudicial articles that presented James as guilty?

It is absolutely correct that people had "zeroed in" on James and had "convicted and hung him" before the trial had begun. James never stood a chance to receive a fair trial. Although there have been other suspects identified in this case, they were not investigated. Some residents of Tenakee were so intent upon incriminating my son that the state troopers responded by focusing their entire case upon James.

That focus now appears at best, misguided, since the trial illustrated that there were no DNA matches or physical evidence to implicate his guilt. They, in fact, arrested him based upon an "alleged confession" later deemed inadmissible during the jury trial.

In addition, there were many other injustices in this trial that should not have been allowed. The court process is supposed to promote the ideal of "innocent until proven guilty" rather than vice versa. Again, my son James Harmon did not receive a fair trial; he was denied his constitutional right.

I urge you as citizens to re-examine this "justice" system, and understand that although a panel of 12 jurors convicted my son, they were not impartial jurors.

I pray that God will bring the truth in this matter to light, and that the justice system will be changed by all of us to become truly fair and impartial for all people, including those without money, and Native Alaskans.

Janice L. Jackson


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