Judge rules murder trial should be in St. Paul

Posted: Friday, November 23, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The trial of a man accused of murdering a U.S. Coast Guard officer on St. Paul Island will be tried in that remote community, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Prosecutors wanted Carl Merculief Jr.'s trial moved to Anchorage. They argued it would be too expensive to hold a trial in St. Paul, facilities are inadequate and just about everyone in town is related to the defendant, his wife, or one of the witnesses.

Merculief wanted the trial in St. Paul, an Aleut town of about 650 people where he has lived about half his life and where the shooting occurred. His lawyer argued that a defendant is entitled to a jury of peers, and in this case that means rural Alaska Natives.

Superior Court Judge Dan Hensley agreed with the defendant, KTUU-TV reported Wednesday. Merculief is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Timothy Harris, a U.S. Coast Guard officer he believed was having an affair with his estranged wife.

The judge ordered attorneys in the case to come up with an alternative site of a jury can't be filled in St. Paul. Mercuief's lawyer suggested Dillingham or Bethel as possible alternative sites for the trial, scheduled to start next July.



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