Judge limits testimony in crash case

  • Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, stands during his arraignment in Springfield District Court, Monday, June 24, 2019, in Springfield, Mass. Zhukovskyy, the driver of a truck in a fiery collision on a rural New Hampshire highway that killed seven motorcyclists, was charged Monday with seven counts of negligent homicide. (Don Treeger/The Republican via AP, Pool) Don Treeger

Published: 12/7/2021 5:24:52 PM
Modified: 12/7/2021 5:24:24 PM

LANCASTER — There will be no testimony at the trial of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy about two instances of erratic driving by a truck hauling a trailer earlier on the day of the fatal collision that killed seven motorcyclists.

Zhukovskyy, 25, of West Springfield, Mass., is charged with seven counts of negligent homicide, seven counts of negligent homicide-DUI, seven counts of manslaughter, and two counts of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon in the collision that claimed the lives of seven members of the JarHeads Motorcycle Club on Route 2 in Randolph. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

The trial, which was scheduled to get underway last month, has been continued until next March.

Coos County Superior Court Justice Peter Bornstein ruled on several pretrial motions filed by the defense and by the state.

In motions filed earlier this fall, public defenders Jay Duguay and Steve Mirkin had asked the court to limit the state from introducing any evidence of Zhukovskyy’s alleged drug use to the day of the collision, June 21, 2019.The defense asked that the state be barred from introducing police reports from prior incidents, statements made by Zhukovsky or witnesses, and evidence of drug use found at his Massachusetts home when he was arrested. The defense also asked the court to preclude any testimony from June 2019 conversations between Zhukovskyy and two correctional officers at the Coos County Jail, where the defendant is being held.

Bornstein ruled the state had not satisfied the “clear proof burden” that Zhukovskyy was driving the truck described as operating erratically on I-93 and on Route 2 on June 21, 2019. The judge noted none of the witnesses saw any lettering on the vehicle or saw the driver. One witness said he could not testify the vehicle he observed on I-93 was the one involved in the later collision because he only got a quick look at it.

The court also ruled the state may not question Coos County Corrections Cpl. Zachary Covill about a conversation with Zhukovskyy in which the defendant allegedly stated that he consumed 10 bags of heroin daily.

Bornstein said the value of the potential evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. He wrote that the “court finds admitting such evidence would appeal to the jury’s sympathies or otherwise cause the jury to make decisions based on emotions, which is impermissible.”

The judge said that state can move to have the conversation admitted for the purpose of impeaching the defendant if he testifies, during the cross-examination of the defense’s expert witness, or in rebuttal.

The state filed a motion requesting that any evidence of alcohol consumption by the JarHead Motorcycle riders be limited to the lead rider, Albert Mazza, whose blood alcohol level was found to be 0.135. The state also asked the court to prohibit the defense’s toxicological expert, Dr. Edwards Sellers from testifying about the cause of the collision, whether Mazza was impaired, and the truthfulness of Zhukovskyy’s statements about his drug use on the day of the accident.

Bornstein ruled that Sellers can testify about his opinion that the levels of drugs found in Zhukovskyy’s blood after the accident were consistent with the defendant having ingested, snorted or injected heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine approximately 12 to 13 hours earlier.

But the judge agreed with the state and ruled Sellers cannot testify about whether lead motorcyclist Albert Mazza was intoxicated or impaired at the time of the accident.

Bornstein said Sellers can only testify about the physiological effects of a 0.135 blood alcohol concentration on the human body.

Zhukovskyy is being held in protective custody in the Coos County Jail. His three motions for a bail hearing have been denied and he has appealed the issue to the state Supreme Court, which has yet to rule on the appeal.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.



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