Crest crash driver's attorney calls character witnesses

Attorney Edward Murphy began calling defense witnesses today in the murder trial of Marcos Costa, driver of the runaway truck that in April 2009 killed two people in La Cañada Flintridge after losing its brakes on Angeles Crest Highway.

Clewson Oliveira, pastor of a Pentecostal church in Florida, who had previous worked with Costa at a church in Massachusetts, took the stand as the first of several character witnesses Murphy plans to call this week.

“He always was a very good person to relate to, very honest, very responsible,” Oliveira said of Costa. “We worked together for a long time and he was a very good man.”

Prior to that testimony, Murphy and Deputy District Atty. Carolina Lugo sparred over Lugo’s preemptive objections to some of the questions Murphy was planning to ask his witnesses — namely whether they would believe Costa if they heard him testifying under oath.

“As for these witnesses telling the jury what they would interpret from Costa [if he were] on the stand, I don’t think that’s appropriate,” said Lugo.

Judge Darrell Mavis cautioned Murphy to avoid asking witnesses to infer conclusions about Costa, but Murphy pushed that line repeatedly, resulting in Mavis striking many of Oliveira’s responses from the record.

In cross examination, Lugo asked Oliveira how he would react to hearing Costa had not told investigators about a man who had flagged him down before the crash to warn him of the dangerous road ahead and that smoke was coming from his truck’s brakes.

“I would be disappointed,” he said.

In a rebuttal question, Murphy asked whether Oliveira would still feel that way if it wasn’t that Costa lied, but just didn’t say anything because investigators didn’t ask him.

“No,” Oliveira said.

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