The Robert Kowalski homicide trial veered off track again Wednesday with a call for a mistrial because of another mistake by attorneys in the case. This time, the error was charged to the prosecution.
On Monday, public defender Eric Hedland had alleged that prosecutors never notified him about the routine destruction of evidence in the case, then conceded he had the information as early as two years ago.
On Tuesday, tempers flared as attorneys tried to resolve Monday’s evidence issues. They exchanged personally tinged comments, prompting Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez to intervene. Both sides eventually agreed the state had not acted in bad faith when the evidence was destroyed.
On Wednesday, with the jury out of the courtroom, prosecutor James Fayette attempted to introduce a report drafted by a firearms expert and related photographs. The documents detail laboratory test fires of the shotgun used to kill Sandra Perry in Yakutat in 1996. The photos showed different sooty residue patterns at different distances between the muzzle and a test target.
Fayette admitted his office did not forward the photographs to Kowalski’s defense:
Those were disclosed to Mr. Hedland just this morning. That’s the issue. The point is the photos, the test fires are referenced in the report.”
Hedland responded that the photos were prejudicial.
Judge Menendez allowed their use at trial, but he would not allow the firearms expert to comment on any new observations following his viewing of photographs of Perry’s body upon his arrival in Juneau this week. He was prepared to offer his opinions of the pattern and density of sooty residue on the body.
Hedland moved for a mistrial. Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez denied it. The trial resumes today.
Kowalski is on trial for first- and second-degree murder in Perry’s death at Yakutat’s Glacier Bear Lodge in 1996.
- The Haines area used to be a Tlingit stronghold, ruled by an alliance between the prosperous Chilkat and Chilkoot people. A new Haines Sheldon Museum exhibit explores how the Native territory gradually gave way to white settlement in the late 1800s. The exhibit will anchor the museum’s upstairs space for at least two years.
- "If this technology goes the way that leading experts are predicting, we could see the entire corridor as a freeway could be autonomous by 2040,” said transportation consultant Scott Kuznicki.
- Concerns over animal welfare have led to changes in recent years in how livestock are raised. But seafood has been missing from the conversation. One group aims to change that.
- “I don’t know if the gravity really is hitting everybody, but we’ve been arguing for recognition since statehood, and under this administration the attorney general has provided an opinion that, yes, tribes do exist, that we have inherent sovereignty,” said Richard Peterson, president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.