Public defender appointed to represent Harmon

Man charged with Wigen murder set to enter his plea today with new attorney

Posted: Thursday, June 03, 2004

The man charged with raping and killing Margaret "Maggie" Wigen last year in Tenakee Springs is set to enter his plea today, with a new attorney at his side.

James D. Harmon appeared Wednesday in Juneau Superior Court for his scheduled arraignment on seven felony counts, including first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault in the spring of 2003. Wigen's body was found buried near her cabin on April 1, 2003, in the Chichagof Island community about 45 miles southwest of Juneau.

Attorney Louis Menendez, who had represented Harmon in Juneau District Court proceedings after his arrest, asked for a postponement and the appointment of a public defender.

"I will not be representing Mr. Harmon on this matter," he said.

While Harmon has family members who could afford an attorney, individually Harmon cannot afford representation, Menendez said.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins, hearing the matter for Judge Larry Weeks, who is out of town, reset the matter for this afternoon. She also appointed the public defender's office to the case after asking Harmon questions about his financial means.

Under oath, Harmon said he had only "a couple hundred dollars" saved, owned nothing valued at more than $250, had no job or credit cards.

Menendez objected to Collins' asking how much money the defendant had received in the last 12 months. He noted that Harmon had been charged with theft.

When Collins rephrased the question to ask the defendant if his income during the last year was less than $10,000, he said it was not.

Alaska State Troopers arrested Harmon on May 20 in Juneau. The next day in District Court, Magistrate John W. Sivertsen Jr. set cash bail at $750,000.

On felony matters, Alaska defendants do not enter pleas until their cases go to Superior Court, where Harmon's case was remanded with a seven-count indictment returned Friday by the grand jury.

In addition to first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault, alleged to have occurred at the end of March 2003, the indictment charges Harmon with second-degree murder and attempted sexual assault, covering the same actions.

The indictment also charges Harmon with second-degree theft of Wigen in the same time frame as her murder. Two attempted first-degree sexual assault charges allege actions against Wigen and another woman in Tenakee Springs on Jan. 1, 2003, in her cabin, after a New Year's Eve party in the community.

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



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