Murder trial for Glacier Highway car crash set for mid-March

A trial for the Juneau man facing murder charges after a fatal car crash last summer is now slated for March.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez on Thursday scheduled a 10-day trial to begin on March 12 for Ryan West.

Originally slated for December, the trial had been pushed back as the discovery and motion filing process continued.

West, 25, was involved in a single-vehicle crash near Mile 32 of Glacier Highway on June 6, 2011, that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Gabriel Carte. He was indicted by a grand jury in August on one count of second-degree murder, an unclassified felony.

Juneau Police Department officers who responded to the scene originally determined alcohol and speed to be factors in the case.

Prosecutors allege West was the driving the pickup truck at the time of the crash, while the defense maintains he was not.

West’s lawyer David Seid argued in recent court documents there is no evidence his client’s blood alcohol level was above the legal limit of 0.08, and his client should have never been charged with murder. Seid cited previous Alaska case law stating that charge should be reserved only in instances of “extreme intoxication with egregious driving conduct.”

District Attorney Dave Brower, in a motion filed Wednesday of this week, countered the case is not about extreme intoxication. Rather, Brower said it’s about whether West knowingly engaged in conduct that resulted in Carte’s death and showed extreme indifference to the value of human life, as stated in the indictment.

“In this case, the defendant’s conduct was apparently not clouded by an excessive amount of alcohol in his system, which is to say his actions bordered on intentional conduct,” Brower wrote in opposition of Seid’s motion to dismiss West’s indictment. Brower added it was “the very bad driving here” that resulted in the death of Carte.

A pretrial hearing will be held in court March 1.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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