Defendant takes stand in assault trial

Closing arguments could happen Tuesday, the seventh day, in the Kenneth Nalan assault trial.

Nalan is being charged with shooting John Duran in his own bedroom last December. The reasons for the shooting and how it happened have, so far, remained unclear. But Nalan himself took the stand on Monday to refute testimony by other witnesses and explain what he remembered had happened.

Kenneth Nalan

Kenneth Nalan

Nalan explained that he’s originally from a large family from Skagway, does carpentry and construction, owns his own home, is married, has three kids, and adopted one of witness John Day’s children.

Nalan portrayed the image of someone who tries to avoid conflict or does not get angry very often. A friend gave Nalan a gun after he got beat up the year before, but he never fired it and purposely squirrelled it away in the back of his bedroom closet. On December 20th, he was trying to give the hint to Day and Duran – or J.D. – that the party was over as they went back to his bedroom. Nalan was drunk, tired, needed some rest before work the next day.

Nalan also said that Duran trying to learn to play guitar from him never happened, ever.

Digitized version of Kenneth Nalan's sketch of his bedroom shown to the jury.

Digitized version of Kenneth Nalan's sketch of his bedroom that was shown to the jury.

During a long recess before his testimony, Nalan and his defense attorney Eric Hedland rearranged Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez’s courtroom to recreate Nalan’s bedroom, pushing tables back, marking out the exact dimensions of the bedroom and doorway to the hall with blue painter’s masking tape on the courtroom carpeting. The edge of the jury box essentially became the head of the bed and the wall near where Nalan says he was sitting at his computer desk.

Kenneth Nalan and Eric Hedland measure and map out the bedroom.

Kenneth Nalan and Eric Hedland measure and map out the bedroom in the courtroom.

Hedland’s colleagues from the public defender’s office helped wheel an armoire from Nalan’s bedroom into the courtroom on a hand truck. A cheap acoustic guitar that Duran said he was playing was also brought in, and the handtruck does stand-in duty for Nalan’s motorcycle parked along one wall.

During what may’ve been the most dramatic portion of the entire trial, Hedland gets Nalan to step down off the witness stand to reenact the shooting in front of the jury. Hedland essentially plays the part of Duran and stage-blocks the scene as he presses hard for Nalan to tell what happened next.

Officer Elias Joven holds the .357 Magnum

Officer Elias Joven holds the .357 Magnum behind the armoire out of the line of sight of the jury.

During this exchange, Nalan’s back is to the jury. But he’s clearly upset and remains distraught during the remainder of the hour-and-twenty minutes of testimony. Hedland presses his own client, almost badgering him as he speeds up the pacing of the questions, not giving him a chance to think about his answers. Nalan says there’s a noise like a yell or a “Rarrrr,” Duran emerges from behind the armoire holding the .357 Magnum that he apparently took from Nalan’s closet.

According to Nalan, he and Duran both have two hands on the gun and Nalan says he’s trying to get finger webbing inserted under the gun’s hammer. Nalan says he gets the gun twisted around. He falls backward and Duran falls forward toward him. There’s a flash as the gun goes off.

Before Nalan’s testimony, Hedland called for a judgment of acquittal based on the belief that the state did not carry its burden beyond a reasonable doubt. But that was denied by Judge Menendez who said that he believed this was one of those classic cases that needed to be decided by a jury.

Nalan is expected to be cross-examined by District Attorney Dave Brower on Tuesday. Then, closing arguments and the case goes to the jury for deliberations.

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