Judge keeps Harmon's bail at $750,000

Posted: Thursday, July 29, 2004

The man charged with the 2003 rape and murder of Maggie Wigen in Tenakee Springs won't be going home anytime soon.

Attorneys for James Harmon, 25, unsuccessfully argued Wednesday for his $750,000 bail to be reduced to $50,000, with a condition that he be released to the "24-hour sight-and-sound supervision" of his mother in Ketchikan.

Harmon, who has pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to stand trial in March 2005.

Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens, presiding in the Juneau case, said his concerns included the defendant's past mental-health problems and the incentive he would have to flee because of the sentence he would face if convicted.

"I'm not comfortable with this proposal," he said via telephone from his Ketchikan courtroom.

Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen cross-examined Harmon's mother, Janice Jackson, about a previous mental-health episode of Harmon's. Gullufsen later stressed the severity of the charges and pointed out that an undercover officer recorded Harmon talking about leaving for Canada the night before his May 20 arrest.

"If anything, the bail ought to be raised," Gullufsen told the judge.

Harmon was indicted in May on seven felony counts, including first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault. Charges of second-degree murder and attempted first-degree sexual assault cover the same alleged crimes against Wigen, who was found buried on April 1, 2003, near her Tenakee Springs cabin.

Tenakee Springs is on Chichagof Island about 45 miles southwest of Juneau.

The indictment also charges Harmon with second-degree theft, alleging he robbed Wigen after killing her, and two counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault, alleging he attempted to rape Wigen and another woman at Wigen's cabin on Jan. 1, 2003, after a community New Year's Eve party.

Jackson, in Stephens' courtroom in Ketchikan on Wednesday, twice pointed out that her son is only accused of the crimes.

Gullufsen asked her about her son's mental health. She said that for a short time about five years ago he was prescribed Paxil, an anti-anxiety, anti-depression medication.

Gullufsen asked if she knew of any instances in the last five years in which Harmon "checked out in terms of reality."

Jackson agreed that there was one such incident in Tenakee Springs in 2000 in which she had to go there to assist him.

Assistant Public Defender David Seid argued that Harmon has no prior criminal history or contacts with police preceding the investigation into Wigen's murder. He said the discussion of leaving the country before the arrest - and more than a year after the killing - was initiated by the undercover state trooper that had befriended Harmon.

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

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