New England man imprisoned for hit-and-run death

Posted: Friday, May 12, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A New England man accused in the hit-and-run death of a Juneau biologist last summer has been sentenced to more than two years in prison.

Joel Taplin, 27, pleaded no contest in March to charges of breach of duty as a vehicle operator to stop immediately after an accident and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Harry Richard Carlson, 56, died after Taplin's car glanced off the rear bumper of Carlson's parked truck and then struck the biologist on July 21.

Taplin was charged with manslaughter, but a trial moved to Ketchikan to avoid pretrial publicity ended in a hung jury on Jan. 28.

In exchange for the no contest pleas, prosecutors dismissed the manslaughter charge.

Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins sentenced Taplin on Thursday to five years in prison with two years suspended, with credit for 153 days already served.

Collins also ordered six years of probation, recommending that it be served in Massachusetts, where much of Taplin's family lives.

Collins added 250 hours of community work service, noting that Carlson volunteered to do a variety of community works.

''Dr. Carlson was a very great man, the sort of person we would all like to be: a loving husband and father, a good friend, a good citizen. Had he lived we would all be better for it,'' Collins said.

Collins said she relied heavily on three witnesses who did not know Taplin or Carlson.

Two of those witnesses testified it was an unavoidable accident, based on what they saw, and the other said that as he came up the incline he also didn't see Carlson.

Taplin, a teacher from New England who had come to Juneau for a writing course at the University of Alaska Southeast, declined to speak at his sentencing.

But Carlson's only child, Lloyd Carlson, delivered an impassioned plea for a longer sentence.

Carlson said a friend overheard Taplin say soon after accident: ''I don't believe I'm still here; my writing is suffering.''

''He does not care about how my father suffered for six hours fighting for his life,'' Lloyd Carlson said. ''He is a selfish, irresponsible, unremorseful person.''

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