Eacker trial notebook: What the jury didn't see

Posted: Wednesday, March 03, 2010

On Friday afternoon, Jimmy Eacker's defense attorney Benjaman Adams rummaged through his case files, which sat on a bench in the back of the courtroom. An aide came to help Adams find what he was looking for, but the attorney turned her away.

"I'm not looking for anything," Adams muttered. "I just need to calm down."

It had been a long week for everyone involved in the murder trial. Proceedings had expanded from half days to full days. Many testimonies to that point had been almost painfully slow, filled with gaps when witnesses needed to refer to their notes.

And at the moment, the parties were in yet another time-hogging discussion outside the presence of the jury. This one to decide if a witness should be allowed to testify via telephone, and if so, what would he be allowed to say.

The defense seemed to think the state was playing games, forcing the defense to make an offer of proof and reveal its hand.

Adams's tight movements and sighs gave away his frustration. Prosecuting attorney Pat Gullufsen half joked that he thought Adams was ready to punch him.

When a compromise of how to treat the witness had been reached, Adams jumped to his feet.

"Do you have something else Mr. Adams?" Judge Anna Moran asked, a logical question given the volume of issues that have been taken up during the trial.

But Adams didn't have another matter to discuss. He said he was just anxious to get the jury back in and keep the trial moving forward.

Adams's temporary display of edginess seemed to exemplify the mood that the trial has often assumed. As the trial has worn on, patience has worn thin.

It started early on with the defense's request to review e-mail correspondence between the prosecution and Alaska State Troopers who have assisted with the state's case. Gullufsen said his office in Juneau was annoyed to have to sift through the e-mails, which in turn seemed to irk Gullufsen.

Frustrations grew with the defense's requests for mistrials and continuances, all denied, and it has led to moments of noticeable snippiness.

For example, after the defense finished direct examination of DNA expert Jennifer Bickham Monday, Adams said he was sure Mr. Gullufsen would have some questions for her.

Adams's tone upset Gullufsen.

On Adams's behalf, defense attorney David Weber said Adams would not let it happen again.

Earlier in the trial, Sandra Lamb's cross-examination testimony was split between a Friday afternoon and a Monday morning. The defense requested that the state not be allowed to talk to Lamb, who is a critical witness, over the weekend.

Gullufsen grew upset with the request, saying he had never before heard of such a motion.

Moran denied the defense's request.

In the nearly month-long trial, the tension has spread outside of just the two parties.

During the defense's request for an acquittal last week, Weber noted Moran's head tilt and wide-eyed stare in his direction.

On Monday, Moran made a statement that alluded to Weber's note, and called it inappropriate.

While the jury hasn't been present for many of the more animated discussions, Moran warned the parties that, like everyone else's patience, the jury's patience was also waning.

"They're in there pacing," Moran told the attorneys earlier in the trial.

The question becomes, when they're in there deliberating, which could begin this afternoon, how will those memories of pacing factor into the decision?

Trials are emotional for everyone involved. No less so for Adams.

"I'm not sure what I would do if I lose this trial. I can't talk about it, but I feel strongly about his innocence," Adams wrote in his personal blog on Feb. 4.

After closing arguments are finished, there will be nothing Adams or any of the attorneys can do. Eacker's fate will be in the tired jury's hands.

As Adams ends his blog entries:

"Rack 'em!"

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com

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