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Driver Charged With Murder Gets Acquittal

11 Aug, 2004 By: Holly J. Wagner

An Anchorage, Alaska jury has acquitted a man who was accused of second degree murder following an accident authorities blamed on the driver allegedly watching Road Trip on a DVD player mounted in the front of the passenger compartment.

Erwin Petterson's truck crossed the road, hit another vehicle and its two occupants were killed. Authorities alleged he was distracted by watching the movie, but Petterson said he was reaching for a soda when his truck crossed the line on the Seward Highway in October 2002.

Petterson was acquitted on all charges, including lesser charges of criminally negligent homicide. Alaska does not have a law prohibiting DVD players within view of the driver. Although in-dash DVD systems are installed so that they cannot play with the vehicle in a driving gear, Petterson had allegedly installed his own system along with a PlayStation 2 system so they could operate while the truck was in motion.

“I think this case was really important because it brought out the issue for public discussion,” prosecutor June Stein told reporters after the acquittal. “It's probably an issue the Legislature should address.”

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