Baxter v. State, 010820 AKCA, A-12685

Docket Nº:A-12685
Opinion Judge:COATS JUDGE.
Party Name:ALAN OSBORN BAXTER, Appellant, v. STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.
Attorney:Michael Barber, Attorney at Law, under contract with the Public Defender Agency, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant. Spenser J. Ruppert, Assistant District Attorney, Fairbanks, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before: Allard, Chief Judge, Harbison, Judge, and Coats, Senior Judge.
Case Date:January 08, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of Alaska
 
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ALAN OSBORN BAXTER, Appellant,

v.

STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

No. A-12685

Court of Appeals of Alaska

January 8, 2020

UNPUBLISHED See Alaska Appellate Rule 214(d)

Appeal from the District Court, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, No. 4NE-14-00150 CR Ben A. Seekins, Judge.

Michael Barber, Attorney at Law, under contract with the Public Defender Agency, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

Spenser J. Ruppert, Assistant District Attorney, Fairbanks, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before: Allard, Chief Judge, Harbison, Judge, and Coats, Senior Judge. [*]

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COATS JUDGE.

Alan Osborn Baxter appeals his conviction for assault in the fourth degree.1He argues that, at two different instances in his trial, the State violated his constitutional right to remain silent.2 Because we conclude that there was no error in the first instance and that any error was harmless in the second instance, we affirm.

Background facts and proceedings

This case arose out of a verbal altercation between Wesley Beyers (Baxter's friend and colleague) and David Ferns at a road construction site on the Parks Highway. At trial, Beyers testified that he returned to his truck to defuse the heated situation and that, after he got in, he heard something hit the side of the vehicle. When he turned around to look, he saw Ferns lying injured on the ground.

Boyd Brownfield, an employee of the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT), was also at the job site that day. He testified that he saw someone run up to Ferns and elbow Ferns in the neck; Brownfield saw Ferns's head snap back before his body hit Beyers's truck door and fell to the ground. Brownfield provided the investigating officer, Sergeant Brian Zeisel of the Alaska State Troopers, with a description of the person who hit Ferns and the truck that person used to drive away.

Sergeant Zeisel soon located the suspect-who turned out to be Baxter- and interviewed him. Baxter told Sergeant Zeisel that Ferns had climbed onto the side of Beyers's truck swinging a hammer. Baxter then started running towards the truck, but by the time he got there, Ferns was already on the ground saying that he had hit his head. Baxter asked Ferns if he was okay or needed help getting up. When Ferns declined, Baxter left the scene - he was told to get in his truck and go because he was blocking traffic. During this interview, Baxter repeatedly insisted that he never touched Ferns.

At trial, Baxter told a different version of events. He testified that he was sprinting towards Beyers and Ferns to see if he could break up the argument, but because he was wearing loosely-tied shoes, he tripped on the new asphalt and lost his right shoe. This caused him to fall...

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