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Ryan West murder trial delayed at last minute

Posted: November 30, 2012 - 6:50pm  |  Updated: December 2, 2012 - 10:22am

A murder trial that was scheduled to begin in Juneau court on Monday has been moved to January at the last minute.

Judge Louis Menendez granted a motion to continue the trial for defendant Ryan W. West in a hearing late Friday afternoon.

The trial was rescheduled for Jan. 8, 2013, to give the defense time to respond to a new report filed by one of the state’s expert witnesses. The report was received Friday morning at 11:28 a.m., one day before the trial.

West, 26, is charged with one count of second-degree murder for his involvement in a fatal car crash on Glacier Highway last summer that killed Gabriel Carte, 19. Prosecutors say West was driving the vehicle at the time, while the defense maintains he was not.

West’s attorney, public defender David Seid, requested the short continuance after his office received a supplemental report from Charles R. Lewis, an expert in traffic accident reconstruction. Lewis is an employee of TechRecon, Inc., in Port Orchard, Wash.

Lewis initially filed a short two-page summary on Aug. 24, 2011 after reviewing the case for prosecutors. Lewis concluded West was the driver at the time of the crash.

Lewis filed the supplemental report when contacted recently by the Public Defender’s Agency.

The supplemental report used different, and possibly wrong, information to reach the same conclusion, the defense attorneys argued. It also cited scientific studies and additional evidence the attorneys were unfamiliar with, according to public defender Grace Lee, who is also representing West.

The defense told the judge they needed time to consult with experts about the new report and to review transcripts.

Seid asked the judge to just preclude the evidence from the trial, which means the expert would not be allow to testify about the supplemental report during the trial. But if that wasn’t possible, Seid asked the judge for a continuance, citing Alaska Criminal Rules which state failure to provide timely disclosure entitles a defendant to a continuance.

District Attorney David Brower opposed the proposed preclusion and continuance, saying nothing in the report was fundamentally different since it reached the same conclusion that West was the driver. Brower also noted that the public defenders could have contacted Lewis earlier about his initial report.

Judge Menendez said he would not preclude the evidence since much of the case is about who was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash. Menendez said he was concerned about delaying the trial any longer since it has been pending for more than a year, but granted the continuance.

The trial is scheduled to last nine days. A pretrial hearing is also scheduled for Jan. 2.

If convicted, West could be facing up to 99 years in prison for the unclassified felony.

To be convicted, the state has to prove to the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that West knowingly engaged in conduct that resulted in the death of Gabriel Carte under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life.

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

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