Judge blocks alcohol evidence

Updated: September 1, 2010, 7:43 PM ET
Associated Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- The attorney for a man accused of killing Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two others in a drunken driving crash cannot introduce evidence that the driver of Adenhart's car may also have been drinking, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The evidence is irrelevant in the triple-murder trial of Andrew Gallo, 23, Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard Toohey said during a motions hearing.

Defense attorney Jacqueline Goodman had argued that the woman driving with Adenhart on April 9, 2009, was also negligent because she had an elevated blood-alcohol level and may have run the red light instead of Gallo.

One test showed 20-year-old Courtney Stewart had a blood-alcohol content of .06, but a second test showed the level to be .16. The legal limit for drivers under 21 is .05.

Authorities said Gallo's blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit when he ran a red light and crashed into Stewart's car in a Fullerton intersection, killing her, the 22-year-old Adenhart and 25-year-old Henry Pearson. Hours earlier Adenhart had pitched six scoreless innings in his season debut in nearby Anaheim.

Stewart's mother said she was pleased with the judge's decision barring the alcohol evidence, noting that an expert witness testified during a grand jury hearing that Stewart was not impaired.

"It bothered me to hear [the defense attorney] say she was drinking because she was not impaired at all at the time of the crash," Courtney's mother, Carrie Stewart-Dixon, said. "We all know who's at fault in this. To hear her try to blame this accident on my daughter was really hard."

Stewart-Dixon said her daughter was a big advocate of not drinking and driving and would often act as a designated driver for her friends.

Gallo has pleaded not guilty. Opening statements in his second-degree murder trial are set for later this month.

Toohey also ruled that statements Gallo made to an Anaheim police officer during his arrest can be admitted as evidence, as well as a prior drunk driving conviction.

Officer John Roman testified briefly that he was searching Gallo's pockets when Gallo asked about the crash victims.

"He looked up at me and spontaneously said, 'Are they OK?' I said, 'Who?' He just stared at me and said nothing," Roman said.

Several seconds later, Roman said, Gallo again spoke.

"He looked at me and said, 'My bad,'" Roman recalled.

The judge will rule later in the week on whether a videotaped interview with Gallo by Fullerton police after his arrest can be used as evidence by the prosecution.

Photos and video will be banned during the trial, Toohey ruled, although he said he might reconsider for the verdict or sentencing.

Three of the four families who had loved ones in the crash object to photos and video during trial and have hired an attorney to represent their privacy interests.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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