Taplin reacted in shock, attorney says

Posted: Friday, January 21, 2000

KETCHIKAN - Joel Taplin's attorney laid out evidence Thursday suggesting his client went into shock after his car fatally injured a Juneau man last July.

The defense and the state began building their cases in the second day of Taplin's trial in Ketchikan District Court. Taplin faces felony manslaughter charges after his Volkswagen Jetta hit biologist Richard Carlson July 21 on Back Loop Road. Taplin, a 27-year-old teacher from New England, was also charged with drunken driving.

Defense attorney Louis Menendez said during opening arguments Wednesday afternoon he would prove Taplin was not drunk when his car hit Taplin, but was in shock.

On Thursday, Menendez painted a picture of the events immediately after Carlson was struck.

As Carlson's body catapulted over the Jetta's hood, it smashed into the windshield, folding the passenger side of the windshield inward and fragmenting the rest of the glass, said police officer Russ Haight, who took the stand Thursday. Photographs showed that only plastic windshield film held the glass together in front of Taplin's face.

Menendez suggested Carlson's body entered part of Taplin's car. Haight agreed that might have happened and Carlson might have come as close as three feet to Taplin.

``Part of the body entered the car at the windshield,'' Menendez repeated. ``Would that put you in shock?''

Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins told Menendez the jury can draw its own conclusion, and directed him to proceed to another line of questioning.

As the state presented its case Thursday, it raised questions about a bag of beer cans found near Taplin's car after he stopped on Back Loop Road near a path to student housing at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Alfred Mequet Jr., the state's second witness Thursday, described events he experienced after the July 21 accident. Mequet was driving his red pickup 30 to 40 feet behind Taplin just before Carlson was hit.

Mequet said after he went home that day, he ``remembered something.''

So he drove back to where Taplin had pulled off the road. A bag was there, Mequet said. He called Haight's attention to it and an officer was sent to retrieve the bag.

The wet paper bag contained two empty Budweiser beer cans, said Juneau police officer Robert Haskell, who testified this morning.

The bag and its contents were sent to the state crime lab in Anchorage, but Haskell said today he didn't know what the results were.

``Don't you think it would be of value to the jury to know that?'' Menendez asked Haskell during cross examination.

Menendez suggested Thursday the bag could have been left by university students.

The trial was originally scheduled for five working days. But Judge Collins said at its present rate, the trial may run until next Friday.

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