The defense looked for possible conflicts of interest as a former probation officer and mother of a previous witness testified Tuesday in the trial for a 2015 double murder.
Regan Tweedy is a former probation officer at Lemon Creek Correctional Center and adoptive mother of James LeBlanc-Tweedy, a key witness in the trial of Laron Carlton Graham, 42, for the murder of Elizabeth Tonsmeire, 34, and Robby Meireis, 36.
“Did most other correctional officers know his relationship to you?” asked John Darnall, the prosecuting attorney, on direct examination.
“Yes, most everyone in the prison did,” Tweedy said.
Defense attorney Natasha Norris probed the relationship of Tweedy and LeBlanc-Tweedy during cross-examination, searching for possible violations of the Alaska Department of Corrections’ policies.
“Would you agree that this policy is about conflicts of interest?” Norris said, after going over the kinds of relationships between DOC personnel and inmates.
Tweedy outlined the steps she had taken to ensure that there was no conflicts between her and her son, who was incarcerated at the same time as Graham in 2016. Most of them were DOC policy already, put in place to avoid getting preferential treatment for family members in the outcomes of their cases. The biggest step was to assign LeBlanc-Tweedy a different probation officer.
“We had discussed that he was supposed to contact his regular PO,” Tweedy said during cross-examination.
Tweedy said that every time LeBlanc-Tweedy came to her for an issue that required a PO, she would refer him to his assigned probation officer, Katie Sullivan. Their contact, Tweedy said, was usually limited to phone calls when she was off-duty.
However, when LeBlanc-Tweedy read Graham’s alleged confession note, he went to his mother first. LeBlanc-Tweedy has a health condition that leads to some issues with his attention and memory, according to Tweedy, and so he’d often go to his mother before being reminded to talk to his assigned PO.
“He was giving me a lot of information and he was pretty upset and I had to invest some time in calming him down,” Tweedy said during direct examination. “He was pretty wound up.”
The note confessed to the drug- and racially-motivated killing of Tonsmeire and Meireis in Douglas in November of 2015. LeBlanc-Tweedy gave the note confessing to the killings back to Graham, but wrote down as best he could what he remembered from it, bringing it to meet with his mother.
The request for that meeting is missing, said Norris, and neither Tweedy nor LeBlanc-Tweedy could satisfactorily explain what had happened to it.
“I couldn’t turn off being his mom when my son said, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you about something really important,’” Tweedy said during cross-examination.
Tweedy, acting as LeBlanc-Tweedy’s mother, contacted the police after hearing about Graham’s alleged confession to the murders, and spoke to a detective whose name she couldn’t recall. She arranged a meeting between the detectives and LeBlanc-Tweedy. The detectives came through a nonstandard entrance in plainclothes so other inmates wouldn’t realize that LeBlanc-Tweedy had been talking to the police. She also attended the meeting as his mother.
“I just kind of sat back and let James talk,” said Tweedy during direct examination. “If there was information that James didn’t remember, I’d kind of talk to him and shake his memory.”
During cross-examination, Norris probed to find out if LeBlanc-Tweedy had been angling for leniency or reduced time off his sentence. His mother said that he had not.
“There was no discussion of a deal. We were talking about the case,” Tweedy said. “I think it was later on that James had started to get threats. He was going to talk to his attorney to see if it would be possible to get a plea agreement or some consideration in a rule 11 agreement, but the answer was no.”
The trial has been ongoing in Juneau Superior Court for three weeks now, and it’s possible that the state will rest this week. Dozens of witnesses have come before the jury, though with each examination and cross-examination taking longer than anticipated, it’s possible the trial will go on longer than anticipated.
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org.