Thursday’s closing argument by a defendant representing himself in a felony trial was everything spectators who filled the room had likely expected — the unexpected.
“They ain’t trying to do no Beyoncé and upgrade me, they downgrading me,” Laron Carlton Graham, 38, told jury members during a last effort to pick apart the prosecution’s case that he threatened a woman’s life, assaulted her, stole a vehicle then continued to contact her despite a court order.
Singer Beyoncé Knowles wasn’t the only famous name dropped during Graham’s closing argument. Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp was likened to artist Michelangelo for what Graham considered a grand fabrication of charges against him, and Juneau Police Department officers took on the names John Elway, Brett Favre and Cam Newton for “calling the plays” they made to bring him down by means of corruption.
The corruption Graham mentioned during the eighth day of his trial touched again on his belief that the charges he now faces for a domestic violence assault were actually born from an extensive JPD and FBI surveillance mission to prove he was a murderer or possibly the leader of a black gang out of California.
“As a human being, you only one decision from wearing the same orange I’m wearing. The man you’re looking at could one day be you,” Graham warned the jurors, asking them to do something about what he considers a corrupt justice system.
Although at times Graham made attempts at humor — he jokingly said he doesn’t want to have his heart broken by a woman again and is considering “becoming gay” — he also opened up to the jury about insecurities. He said he feels a great deal of pain when he sees on people’s faces their desire for him to “hurry up” and “get on” with his side of things because they’re tired of listening to him.
“I’m a human being, too,” he said, looking around the courtroom, filled with half a dozen members of the JPD and several attorneys not assigned to the case. He talked about family members he longs to see and speak with, and about children he has but has never met. Graham said he never made it past the eighth grade in school, but he was using everything in his power to fight for his life.
ADA Kemp predicted Graham would avoid talking about the actual attack he is on trial for — threatening to throw his then-girlfriend out of a second-floor window and for slapping her while she was holding her 1-year-old child when she tried to escape.
Instead of “corruption, collusion and conspiracy,” Kemp said the focus of this case should actually be Graham’s “jealously, and his manipulation and his desperation.”
“Yes, he is a person of interest in a separate ongoing and active investigation. That much is true,” Kemp said about the murder investigation. Kemp has not said anything more about that investigation at trial or to the press, citing the ongoing investigation.
The murder investigation is “wholly unrelated” to what the victim experienced in her apartment with Graham, Kemp said. Kemp said Graham trapped the victim in her apartment with her child while he interrogated her about a second man she was romantically involved with, Kemp said.
“Mr. Graham would have you believe that this case is about something else, but really what it boils down to is this case is about his jealousy, his desire to manipulate (the victim) and his desperation when he couldn’t do that and when she resisted,” she said.
Kemp played a phone call Graham made against the do-not-contact order of Judge Keith Levy, to the victim in which he attempted to use affection to dissuade the victim from following through with charges and testifying.
“There’s no getting you to see where I’m coming from,” the victim told Graham over the phone while he was in jail as he interrupted her by calling her “baby.” “If you honestly believe that you did not do anything wrong and that I’m over exaggerating about the whole situation and that this is normal for you — this is not normal for me. Yes, I grew up in a home where my mom was abused by every man she was with. I’m not fixing to do that, ever, ever again in my life. Especially while I’m holding my child.”
Kemp told the jury the victim was courageous for taking a stand against Graham at that time. She also said the victim was courageous when she was being cross-examined by Graham at trial, since he is representing himself.
Graham, instead, asked the jury to remember that the victim has previously lied to law enforcement. Graham recalled that on the day of the alleged attack, the victim’s two children were left home alone during the night while she met a man at a downtown hotel. When police arrived, she first told them she was with them through the night and only later admitted she was not.
Despite all of the evidence Graham said he has presented that shows the state failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, he stated several times in court he doesn’t believe the justice system will stop officials from making sure he “hangs.” He said cops are determined to “get this (n-word) on something.”
“It probably took a black man coming to Juneau to let this injustice be seen,” Graham said.
Judge Philip Pallenberg sent the jury away to deliberate on the 14 charges Graham faces. Jury members are expected to return with a verdict on Friday.
• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or email@example.com.
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