When it came Phillip Weidner’s turn to give an opening statement to the jury, he wasted little time savaging the prosecution’s case. In dramatic fashion, he took aim at the prosecution grants of immunity to several key witnesses. Notably, that included everyone from John Peel’s boat, the Libby 8.
Weidner told them that the prosecution had manipulated the witnesses into telling stories that fit their theory of the case.
He referred to the “Rosellini” letter. He spoke of the immunity Dawn Holmstrom and Brian Polinkus had received, to protect them from statements they made to the first grand jury, statements they’d had second thoughts about, statements that Weidner said were lies.
He referred to Larry Demmert’s second grand jury appearance, when he took the Fifth Amendment “ninety seven times,” because “it might incriminate him to answer questions.” He suggested that Lany Demmert had perjured himself in front of the first grand jury, and wouldn’t come before the second grand jury without receiving immunity from prosecution for his earlier perjury.
To make his point in dramatic fashion, Weidner unveiled a gigantic enlargement of Demmert’s immunity letter. He read it aloud — and made sure it sounded like an indictment.
Before he was finished, Weidner’s attack on Larry Demrnert took a personal turn. He spoke of Demmert’s drug and alcohol abuse. He spoke of Demmert’s trip to a rehab center.
“He may come in here and look like a skipper,” Weidner said of Larry Demmert, Jr. “He may come in here and look like a credible person. But you’ve got to look in the valleys.”
By the time Weidner was done, the only Libby 8 crewmember left standing was John Peel.
Excerpts from the unpublished original manuscript, “Sailor Take Warning,” by Leland E. Hale. That manuscript, started in 1992 and based on court records from the Alaska State Archive, served as the basis for “What Happened in Craig.”
Copyright Leland E. Hale (2020). All rights reserved.