Glacier Highway murder trial delayed

There will be no jury trial next week in the case of this summer’s fatal accident out the road.

An attorney for Ryan West on Thursday filed a motion to dismiss the indictment of second degree murder, knocking the trial off the calendar as the judge considers the motion and any additional briefings.

The 25-year old West is being charged in connection with the death of 19-year old Gabriel Carte. West and Carte were both in a truck that went into a ditch and rolled several times at Mile 35 Glacier Highway last June. West sustained minor injuries. Carte died when he was ejected from the vehicle. Police believe alcohol and speed were factors in the crash.

Defense attorney David Seid said whether or not West was the driver, there was no way that anyone could be charged with second degree murder in this case. He suggested that there may have been a little alcohol consumption, but no one was intoxicated.

In a 20-page motion handed to Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez, Seid says prosecutors chose the wrong charge to present to the grand jury. Seid writes that the accident at Mile 32 (not Mile 35 as indicated in previous reports) occurred when Carte was driving West’s truck at about 80 miles an hour. West told investigators that Carte lost control and the truck spun about six times. The Dodge pick-up was sitting in a creek bed, heavily damaged with a missing wheel and its top crushed in. But the investigating officer told a grand jury later that he would be skeptical if West would’ve allowed anyone else to drive his truck.

West volunteered to testify before the grand jury and told jurors that he let Carte drive the truck and switched places with him after leaving a gathering at Eagle Beach. West also said that he drank two beers at the gathering, but he could not recall if Carte drank anything. A blood draw at the hospital sometime after the accident, considered inadmissible by Seid, showed that West had a blood alcohol content of .071 percent, under the legal limit of .08 percent. Seid argues that the charge of murder in the second degree has been reserved for “instances of extreme intoxication with egregious driving conduct” and the grand jury had received misleading or insufficient instructions on the law. Seid also questioned the prosecution’s cross-examination of West before the grand jury which Seid considered as unfair and inadmissable impeachment of his client.

District Attorney Dave Brower was aware that a motion-to-dismiss was being filed, but he said that he “not had a chance to see it yet.”

A two-week jury trial was scheduled to start on Monday, December 5th.

Prosecutors also want to revoke West’s probation stemming from an earlier case in which he injured a woman by dragging her with his truck. That will be considered pending the outcome of the murder trial.

The next hearing in the case is planned for January 3, 2012. That may push any potential trial into next spring.

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