Drunk, High Sledder Got a Fair Trial, Court Says

     An Alaskan man – drunk and high on marijuana and cocaine – who plowed his snowmobile into two people and their sled dogs did not suffer when a trial court restricted a witness and denied his bid to exclude evidence, the Alaska Court of Appeals found.
     Patrick Tickett was driving his snow mobile from Kotzebue to Noorvik at nearly 60 miles per hour when he struck Roger Gollub and Tracey Schaeffer from behind in November 2008. Tickett, who was 19 years old at the time, could not see Schaeffer waving her headlamp through his fogged goggles.
     The impact threw Schaeffer, Tickett and his passenger off their sleds but trapped Gollub underneath, where he died of his injuries.
     Tickett admitted to officials that he had taken shots of whiskey to “deal with the cold,” had smoked a joint of marijuana and had used cocaine the day of the accident. Toxicology reports confirmed the drug use and found Tickett’s blood alcohol level to be .069 percent, although a defense analysis found a blood alcohol level of .052 percent.
     On appeal, Tickett argued that he was not allowed to cross-examine expert witness Brian Capron using “Alcohol and Drug Intoxication,” a book by Russell Rockerbie, despite being allowed to cross-examine expert witness Stephan Palmer using the same book. Trial court judge Ben Esch had found that since Capron had never heard of the book it could not be established as a learned treatise for cross-examination purposes.
     Tickett had argued that his expert witness, who was on a flight to Alaska, could establish the book, but the judge dismissed the claim. The state appeals court agreed that Tickett should have been allowed to use the book, but found the error harmless since his defense was that the accident was “unavoidable” and that he had not acted recklessly despite his intoxication because he thought the trail would be empty.
     The court also affirmed the trial court’s decision to allow evidence of Tickett’s cocaine use since it could prove that the man had acted recklessly and was under the influence, as well as the man’s 15-year prison sentence.

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