There’s no question the testimony of a Sound Beach contractor’s ex-girlfriend will be damaging to him, but a Suffolk judge set limits Tuesday on how much damage she’ll be allowed to cause.
The next witness in the vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated trial of Christopher Campbell, 37, is his ex-girlfriend, Christine Evko.
Because there is no evidence of Campbell’s blood-alcohol level when his box truck hit and killed his neighbor, Tracy Mangino, 40, Evko is the key witness in the trial — particularly after three other witnesses who were with Campbell the night of Oct. 18, 2014 all said they saw no sign of excessive drinking as he went from bar to bar that day.
Evko, who was not out with Campbell that night, was at the home they shared when he returned moments after the accident.
State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho said that as in all criminal cases, she’ll be allowed to testify Wednesday about what’s relevant, but won’t be able to tell jurors about things unrelated to the charges. But he soon found that the line between those two categories wasn’t always so clear.
For example, Evko testified to a grand jury last year about Campbell nervously getting rid of things in the days after Mangino was killed.
“What evidence from the truck could he be hiding?” asked defense attorney William Keahon of Hauppauge. Camacho asked what evidence from the collision would be in his house.
“We don’t know, because it’s not specified,” replied Assistant District Attorney Maggie Bopp.
Bopp said she would limit her questioning to whether Campbell was nervous and panicky, and would instruct Evko that she couldn’t talk about Campbell hurriedly getting rid of bags of cocaine or guns from a safe. But Bopp said she did want to ask about Campbell burning papers in those days.
“Papers? What papers?” Keahon said. “What is the jury supposed to do with that? Speculate on that?”
Bopp said the papers included files, along with papers from his pockets the night of the accident. Camacho said burning the contents of Campbell’s pockets was admissible.
Keahon objected that the defense was being ambushed, but Camacho told him he was “being extremely cautious.”
Earlier Tuesday, jurors viewed Campbell’s truck, which had been brought to the Central Islip courthouse. Some examined a small, waist-high dent on the front of the box, where a video shows Mangino was hit when she leaned into the road to pick something up. The dent is below and behind the passenger’s window.
After jurors were finished, Mangino’s father, Michael, and daughter, Serena walked up to the truck. They silently gazed at the dent, Michael Mangino’s hand on his granddaughter’s back.