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Crime & Courts

After DUI acquittal, Anchorage man fined $300 for role in fatal crash

  • Author: Tess Williams
  • Updated: January 6
  • Published December 30, 2019

An Anchorage man was ordered to pay a $300 fine Monday for his role in a fatal August 2017 crash.

Christopher Turkette, 42, was acquitted of charges of manslaughter and driving under the influence by a jury earlier this month.

Turkette had a flashing yellow arrow as he turned his 2005 Chrysler Pacifica south onto the Old Seward Highway from Dowling Road when he collided with 30-year-old Douglas J. Bittinger on Aug. 8, 2017, police wrote in an alert. Bittinger, who was driving a 2005 Ducati motorcycle, had a green light and was wearing a helmet, police said. He died at the scene about 10 minutes later.

Charges were filed about six months later after blood test results showed marijuana in Turkette’s system, police said.

Bittinger’s parents said during Monday’s sentencing hearing that the verdict made them feel hopeless.

“He gets nothing more than a slap on the hand for killing my kid,” Bittinger’s mother said. “And it’s disgusting.”

Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson sentenced Turkette to the maximum fine for negligent driving. He said both the defense and prosecution foreshadowed difficulties with the law because “there wasn’t a clear, bright line for a drug DUI like there is for alcohol.”

Peterson said evidence presented during the trial showed that Turkette’s blood tested positive for 12 nanograms of THC per millimeter of blood. There are limits to the amount of THC allowed in blood tests in some other states with legal recreational marijuana, but Alaska does not have a defined legal limit. In Colorado, drivers with more than 5 nanograms can be prosecuted for driving under the influence.

“There is no doubt in certain factors in this case,” Peterson said. “There is no doubt that you had active THC in your system and there isn’t any doubt even from your own expert, who said you caused the accident. Now, whether or not it was criminal was a decision for the jury to make and they’ve made that decision.”

Correction: This story has been updated to correct one of the references to the year the crash happened and the charge Turkette was convicted of. The jury found him guilty of negligent driving, not reckless driving.