Judge denies motion for mistrial in Heiman case

  • By Rashah McChesney
  • Tuesday, April 14, 2015 11:29am
  • News

After more than an hour of questioning jurors about their memories of Monday’s trial proceedings, Kenai Superior Court Judge Charles Huguelet denied the defense team’s request for a mistrial.

A handful of jurors were inadvertently exposed to the sight of the defendant, Shane Heiman, in handcuffs when a court services officer forgot to remove them after a break.

Jurors were questioned individually Tuesday about their memories of the event and two were given the admonition that a defendant in handcuffs is not abnormal and should not affect their opinions of Heiman.

Heiman is currently facing charges that he broke into a woman’s home on Tobacco Lane in Soldotna with the intention of raping her. She escaped and Heiman is accused of fleeing the scene and later resisting arrest.

He is charged with three felonies — burglary, assault and attempted sexual assault — and one misdemeanor of resisting arrest. If convicted, he faces up to 99 years in prison for the attempted sexual assault charge and more than $400,000 in fines. He is also facing charges felony rape, kidnapping, sexual assault and burglary charges in a November 2013 case. Jurors have heard testimony from witnesses to both cases as the prosecutor seeks to establish Heiman as a serial rapist.

After the question of a potential mistrial was quashed, jurors heard from family members and law enforcement who witnessed the aftermath of the break-in on Tobacco Lane on Dec. 13, 2013 in Soldotna. The victim, E.L., has yet to testify but her mother and brother spoke about her panicked screaming and attempts to get into the family’s home on the night of the attack.

“She had run into the downstairs bathroom, as far into the bathroom as she could possibly get and she was standing in there, trembling and crying and blood running down her leg. She was totally naked,” E.L.’s mother said. “She’s a pretty tough kid and I’ve never seen her totally out of control like that and just crying and sobbing.”

She told jurors that Heiman had helped the family build the small house on a lot near the family’s home off Arc Loop Road south of Soldotna. She said she called him about a week before her daughter was attacked and asked Heiman to put in some lights. During that conversation, she said told Heiman that her daughter had moved into the home.

The prosecution also called Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Jeremy Grieme who interviewed E.L. after the attack. She had initially told the 9-1-1 operator and her family that she did not recognize her attacker, however she later told investigators that she was sure it had been Heiman. Defense attorneys focused their cross examination of Grieme on E.L.’s memory of the incident.

“Memory can be a tricky thing,” said Public Defender Nathan Lockwood.

Lockwood asked Grieme why officers had not pursued other leads on suspects that family members had given them during the initial interviews. Grieme said that one of the named suspects was a large Hispanic man who did not match the description E.L. had given; the other had been discounted for other reasons.

“At first, she said ‘I think it looked like Shane (Heiman),” Grieme said. “Then, later one, she became more emphatic about it. She became more assertive as she talked.”

Jurors also heard from Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Rob Hunter who photographed much of the crime scene. Hunter matched footprints from the scene to the shoes Heiman had been wearing the night he was arrested. Hunter showed the jury photos from E.L.’s electrical box and talked about following the footprints to the box and finding the cover removed and all of the switches turned off.

He said he followed the footprints about 150 yards from the cabin and found that they led to a set of tire prints before disappearing.

Hunter later assisted in Heiman’s arrest and confiscated the clothing Heiman was wearing the night he was accused of breaking into E.L.’s home. Hunter said Heiman’s pants were unzipped when officer’s stopped him and the underwear he was wearing had white stains on the crotch. Hunter unsealed several evidence bags in the courtroom and showed them the pocket knife officers found on Heiman as well. The state has sought to prove that Heiman has a pattern of behavior that includes breaking into women’s homes and threatening them with knives in an attempt to sexually assault them.

Trial is scheduled to resume 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Reach Rashah McChesney at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens

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