Venice crash trial nears end

‘Un­in­ten­tional killings are not mur­der,’ the de­fense at­tor­ney says of death in 2013 crash.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Stephen Ceasar stephen.ceasar@la­times.com

In mur­der trial of board­walk driver, ju­rors are re­minded of the life lost.

The im­age pro­jected in the court­room showed Alice Grup­pi­oni, an Ital­ian new­ly­wed on her hon­ey­moon in Cal­i­for­nia, smil­ing in a pho­to­graph taken by her hus­band.

As ju­rors turned their heads and craned their necks for a glimpse, a sec­ond photo, taken that same day, flashed onto the screen.

The pho­to­graph showed Grup­pi­oni’s life­less body sprawled on the con­crete mo­ments af­ter Nathan Louis Camp­bell bull­dozed his car into pedes­tri­ans on the Venice board­walk, killing her and in­jur­ing 17 oth­ers, Deputy Dist. Atty. Vic­tor Avila told ju­rors Mon­day.

Af­ter she was struck by Camp­bell’s car, Grup­pi­oni was car­ried on the hood for 300 feet be­fore slid­ing off as Camp­bell drove down the walk­way, Avila told ju­rors.

“He doesn’t stop, he never ap­plies the brakes, and he kills her,” he said, point­ing at the photo. “There is no com­ing back for Alice Grup­pi­oni.”

Camp­bell sat ex­pres­sion­less, rest­ing his fore­arms on the ta­ble, as Avila asked the jury to con­vict him in Grup­pi­oni’s death and the in­juries of oth­ers. Camp­bell, 39, has pleaded not guilty to mur­der, as­sault with a deadly weapon and hit-an­drun charges.

Ju­rors have heard diver­gent ex­pla­na­tions of what hap­pened on the board­walk on Aug. 3, 2013, dur­ing the month­long trial.

Avila de­scribed Camp­bell as a man fu­eled by frus­tra­tion and anger, in­tent on in­flict­ing pain on oth­ers. Af­ter a friend’s botched ef­fort to buy drugs, Camp­bell got into his Dodge Avenger and de­cided to jump a curb, ma- neu­ver past bar­ri­ers meant to block ve­hi­cle ac­cess and pur­pose­fully plow through the packed board­walk.

The pros­e­cu­tor played a sur­veil­lance video show­ing Camp­bell walk­ing around the board­walk mo­ments be­fore he drove into the crowd. Avila ar­gued that the footage proves Camp­bell knew how crowded the popular tourist des­ti­na­tion was and pointed to sur­veil­lance footage he said showed the ve­hi­cle swerve to­ward two peo­ple who nar­rowly es­caped be­ing hit.

Avila also re­minded ju­rors of the tes­ti­mony of a home­less man, who said Camp­bell told him that he wanted to run down a drug dealer who ripped off his friend.

“Point them out; I’m go­ing to run them over,” Camp­bell told a home­less man, Avila said.

But de­fense at­tor­ney James Cooper told ju­rors that Camp­bell did not plan to kill any­one and was not act­ing de­lib­er­ately.

“Yes, my client did cause this tragic, non­sen­si­cal event,” Cooper said. “Mr Camp­bell is a killer. How­ever, un­in­ten­tional killings are not mur­der.”

Cooper told the jury that the pros­e­cu­tion lacked ev­i­dence that proves pre­med­i­ta­tion and re­lies heav­ily on the un­re­li­able tes­ti­mony of a home­less man. The pros­e­cu­tion has failed to prove that Camp­bell set out to kill.

“The fact that his car struck her and caused her to die is not the same as mur­der,” he said.

Closing ar­gu­ments are ex­pected to con­clude Tues­day.

Ifran Khan Los An­ge­les Times

NATHAN LOUIS CAMP­BELL is es­corted into court to hear closing ar­gu­ments in his mur­der trial.

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