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Tickett v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

September 19, 2014


Appeal from the Superior Court, Second Judicial District, Kotzebue, Ben Esch, Judge. Trial Court No. 2KB-09-79 CR.

Dan S. Bair, Assistant Public Advocate, and Richard Allen, Public Advocate, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

Nancy R. Simel, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Hanley, District Court Judge.[*]


Page 709

 HANLEY, Judge

In November 2008, Patrick L. Tickett was driving his snow machine from Kotzebue to Noorvik at approximately sixty miles per hour after having consumed alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. Two people with a team of sled dogs were on the trail at the same time. Tickett did not see the people or dogs until it was too late for him to avoid a collision. Tickett's snow machine struck the people, killing one and seriously injuring the other. A jury convicted Tickett of manslaughter, first-degree assault, and driving under the influence.

Tickett claims the trial court erred by improperly restricting his cross-examination of one of the State's expert witnesses. We conclude that the superior court's limitation of Tickett's cross-examination of the State's expert was error. However, given the facts of this case, the error was harmless.

Tickett also claims that the trial court erred when it allowed the State to introduce evidence that Tickett had ingested cocaine prior to the collision. We conclude that the court correctly denied Tickett's motion to exclude evidence of the cocaine.

Finally, Tickett asserts his sentence is unlawfully severe. The sentence imposed by the superior court is not clearly mistaken. We therefore affirm the judgment of the superior court.

Facts and proceedings

At around 7:15 p.m. on November 19, 2008, Dr. Roger Gollub and Tracey Schaeffer went mushing with a team of sled dogs on a multi-use trail outside of Kotzebue. Gollub was dressed in a white wind suit that did not have reflectors. Schaeffer's parka had a reflector on the back of it, and the dog harnesses had reflective material on them. When they had traveled approximately four miles outside of town, Schaeffer noticed a snow machine approaching from behind. She decided to stay on the trail but began waving her headlamp to signal the driver of the snow machine.

Tickett was driving the snow machine with Clarissa Cleveland as a passenger. Cleveland had contacted Tickett earlier that day to get a ride to Noorvik. Tickett's goggles were fogging up, he was driving the snow machine at a speed of approximately sixty miles per hour, and he did not see Schaeffer waving her headlamp. By the time Tickett saw Gollub and Schaeffer, it was too late to stop and the snow machine struck Schaeffer, Gollub, and the dog sled.

On impact, Schaeffer was thrown from the sled, and Tickett and Cleveland were thrown from the snow machine. Although she was injured, Schaeffer walked back to the sled and saw that it had landed on Gollub. With Cleveland's help, Schaeffer lifted the sled off of Gollub. Schaeffer administered first aid to Gollub, who was severely injured.

After unsuccessfully attempting to use a radio and start the snow machine, Tickett began walking back to Kotzebue to get help, and Cleveland ran after him. An unidentified person on a snow machine gave Tickett and Cleveland a ride back to Kotzebue. Tickett called 911 when they arrived at his mother's house at about 9:00 p.m.

Gollub died from the injuries he sustained. Schaeffer suffered life-threatening injuries, remained in the hospital for two weeks, and continued to have complications following her release.

When the police questioned Tickett on the night of the incident, an officer detected the odor of alcohol coming from him. Tickett initially denied having used alcohol prior to the crash but later admitted to having taken a couple of shots to " deal with the cold." He later told the police that he had taken two or three swigs of whiskey before heading to Noorvik. He also stated that he had smoked a joint of marijuana between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m.

Page 710

Cleveland later told the police that Tickett admitted using cocaine on the day of the incident. Cleveland also testified that even though she did not see Tickett drink any alcohol before the collision, and while he did not appear to be ...

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