A Juneau Superior Court judge heard arguments Monday about whether certain pieces of evidence will be admitted into the drunken-driving trial of a former Alaska Department of Fish & Game commissioner.
At issue was whether a Juneau Police Department officer had probable cause to pull Denby Lloyd’s vehicle over Aug. 8, 2010 for a traffic violation and whether that stop and ensuing field sobriety tests were enough justification to arrest Lloyd for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Defense attorney Louis Menendez questioned JPD Officer Thomas Penrose about his initial justification for the traffic stop. Penrose stated he saw Lloyd signal for what would have been an illegal turn, but that Lloyd turned his blinker off and did not make the turn.
“When he was driving (in downtown) Juneau past bars were any people running for cover?” Menendez asked. “Was he weaving, straddling, drifting, almost strike another vehicle, varying his speeds and going to fast or too slow?”
Penrose said he noticed an expired tag on Lloyd’s vehicle.
In her closing argument, City and Borough of Juneau attorney Robyn Carlisle said the defense did not dispute Denby’s registration was expired, so the stop was legal.
Menendez also questioned the sobriety tests Penrose administered to Lloyd. Penrose said he administered the tests to Lloyd after pulling him over for the expired tag after Lloyd told him he had just come from a party where he had consumed alcohol. He also had bloodshot, watery eyes, Penrose said. He also characterized Lloyd’s speech as slow but not slurred. Denby’s wife Laurie would later testify her husband speaks in a slow, studious manner.
Menendez also challenged Penrose on a test where he asked Lloyd to walk an imaginary line. When Penrose said the line was Lloyd’s to imagine, Menendez questioned how Penrose could know if Lloyd was off track if Penrose didn’t know the line Lloyd drew in his head.
“Could it have been 10 feet wide or two inches?” Menendez asked.
Menendez’ examination of the details of the field sobriety tests were a continuation of questioning from a March 3 evidence hearing. There, an audio recording revealed Lloyd did not skip the letter ‘H’ when asked to say the alphabet backwards, despite Penrose’s notation to the contrary. That tape also revealed Lloyd did skip some numbers when asked to list them in sequence, but backtracked to include them.
On Monday, Menendez asked Penrose if he was in a hurry the night of the arrests, or if he gave Lloyd multiple tests in an attempt to distract him.
“We try to determine if someone who is impaired can do multiple things at one time,” Penrose said.
Lloyd’s failure of the field sobriety tests led Penrose to arrest him on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. A reckless endangerment charge also arose since Lloyd’s wife was a passenger in the vehicle.
After the arrest Lloyd provided a breath sample at a JPD station. That test revealed Lloyd’s blood alcohol content to be 0.143 percent. In Alaska, a person is presumed to be under the influence of alcohol with a BAC level of 0.08 percent or more.
The two sides also sparred over the admission of video and audio recordings and transcripts. Carlisle objected to the defense’s exhibits because they had been reformatted, while Menendez objected to the city’s items because, among other things, they contained computer applications required to open them.
Judge Patricia Collins is expected to rule on the questions presented at Monday’s hearing April 29. She is also expected to decide then if the case can go to trial.
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at email@example.com.