During a trial that’s become something of a spectacle with a loquacious inmate acting as his own defense, the topic of one woman’s threatened life came back into focus Friday.
The 28-year-old woman on the witness stand began crying as she recalled for Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp what happened inside her Gruening Park apartment on March 17, when she and her 2-year-old child were alone with a man she was warned was a murderer.
“When he told you he was going to throw you out the window, were you holding (your child)?” Kemp asked her.
“Yes,” she replied.
“And did you believe that he might do that?” Kemp asked.
“Yes, I believed he would,” the victim said.
“When he struck you, were you holding (your child)?” Kemp asked.
“Yes,” she said, choking on her reply as her eyes watered. “He had mentioned that I should put the baby down and let her play, and that it wasn’t going to matter whether I was holding her or not, that it was going to be bad for me.”
Meanwhile, defendant Laron Carlton Graham, 38, continued preparing notes for his cross-examination and shook his head in disbelief as the victim spoke. Graham is charged with felony assault, robbery, theft and tampering with a witness’ testimony. He also faces 10 class A misdemeanors: seven for unlawful contact, one for ignoring a domestic violence protection order, one for ignoring a no-trespass notice and one for assault.
Graham already admitted guilt to a majority of the misdemeanors, but none of those charges, nor the felony charges, would be before the jury now if it weren’t for a malicious ploy by the Juneau Police Department to convince his girlfriend that he was a murderer — that’s his defense theory, anyway.
Earlier this week, JPD Detective Sterling Salisbury revealed in court that Graham’s girlfriend was used as an informant in a murder investigation that started last year wherein Graham was a suspect. Police served her a search warrant in December at the apartment she shared with Graham — it was not made clear in court what the search warrant was related to — and from there provided her with a cellphone that she used to relay information about Graham and his whereabouts to the police.
While Kemp’s line of questioning built a foundation for the charges related to the case before the jury, Graham used the still-active murder investigation to paint a different picture of what happened the day of the attack.
“I do not deny that March 17 took place, but it in fact did not take place how JPD has painted the picture to you that it has taken place,” Graham told the victim during cross examination. “I’m questioning today: has it ever at any time formulated in your mind that this case was created, and is bigger than you and I?”
The victim stood her ground that the assault charges Graham now faces are separate from the murder investigation, and separate from a conspiracy theory Graham believes centers on him. She said she wasn’t in court on the witness stand as a paid informant still working for JPD; she was in court for her own peace of mind.
“It’s important for me that justice is served for him assaulting me while I was holding my child … that him and everybody else know that it’s not OK and it shouldn’t have happened,” she said.
The victim was the only witness for the state on Friday, sitting through five hours of back-and-forth questioning from the state and Graham, who is still a Lemon Creek Correctional Center inmate. Graham asked the witness to describe their relationship before JPD took her on as an informant, and she said Graham had been a loving person who cared deeply for her and her children. She also said that after police asked her to become an informant for the murder investigation, suspicions arose in her about his guilt, but even now she isn’t sure he’s a murderer.
Part of the victim’s work for JPD included visiting Graham when he was in LCCC toward the end of last year and beginning of this year for a separate assault conviction. When Graham asked her on the witness stand Friday why she visited him frequently, she said it was because she cared for him but also because JPD wanted to see if he might confess to a murder in her presence. She also told Graham that, even when she wasn’t comfortable with the idea, she wore a wire recording device — more than once — during the jail visits.
Graham read a portion of text messages between the victim and her police contact, JPD Detective Matt DuBois, that revealed something to that affect.
“This is really starting to scare me,” the victim texted to DuBois, according to what Graham read aloud in court, “and if he did this and confesses to me, then goes to trial, I don’t want anything to do with that.”
Graham insisted that a “seed” planted in the victim’s mind by JPD is what caused her to believe her life was in jeopardy that day in her apartment — not his actions. Graham did not ask the victim about the actual assault — a slap across her face — or the vehicle theft while she was on the stand. Toward the end of the day, the fourth day of Graham’s jury trial, he revealed through a line of questioning with the victim that JPD had him on a 24-hour surveillance watch. He said he had long suspected the police were watching him, something others brushed off as paranoia. The discovery of this surveillance and other texts from the victim to police about his location affirmed his suspicions, he said.
Graham said he wasn’t provided reports about the surveillance during the pre-trial discovery process, and again told Judge Philip Pallenberg that he suspected misconduct by the prosecution for withholding them.
The jury was excused from the courtroom while the matter of surveillance reports were discussed and Judge Pallenberg wondered as well if they should have been part of discovery.
“Certainly if, hypothetically, if he was under surveillance on the morning of March 17 that might have some great relevance to the case,” Pallenberg said.
ADA Kemp told the judge “Well, until about 30 seconds ago, I didn’t know that there were reports out there.”
During a short recess, Kemp retrieved the reports and provided a copy to Graham and Pallenberg. Graham motioned, for the second day in a row, for a mistrial because of what he has repeatedly called an unfair trial.
Pallenberg told Graham to review the materials to decide if they have any actual weight in his defense before making that motion.
The trial is expected to continue Monday with Graham calling his own witnesses. The case could go to the jury as soon as Tuesday.
Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.