By Janice L. Jackson
May 16, 2005
My heart is very heavy as I write this letter. I am still in shock from the guilty verdict placed upon my son James Harmon for 2nd degree murder, first degree sexual assault and 2nd degree theft.
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, Juneau Empire, May 15, 2005).
I sat through as much of the trial as I was allowed to as mandated by the presiding judge's court order. My husband Richard Jackson sat through each day of the jury trial. Our family and friends observed much of the trial. Since the trial commenced, many have commented that this trial process was not fair, impartial or objective for James. Until recently, I had always believed in the overall integrity of the justice system.
James' constitutional rights were violated right from the beginning 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 then stated that the pre-trial publicity would not affect their capabilities to serve as impartial jurors. How could they serve impartially, after reading the prejudicial articles that presented James as guilty? The pre-trial publicity routinely circulated in the Juneau Empire, did in fact, affect their judgment as jurors!
The court process is supposed to promote the ideal of innocent until proven guilty rather than vice-versa. James deserved a trial with a panel of impartial jurors, rather than a panel who had formed opinions from the biased stories in my opinion printed by the Juneau Empire in the two years leading up to the trial.
Roger Lewis is absolutely correct in his statement that people had already 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. The 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.
I urge people to re-examine this "justice" system, and understand that although a panel of 12 jurors convicted my son, they were not in fact, impartial jurors in my opinion.
I pray that God will bring the truth in this matter to light, and that the justice system will somehow 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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