Evidence of wild driving excluded by trial judge

March 02, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Prosecutors won't be able to portray James Gregory Martin at his automobile-manslaughter trial as a reckless driver who often drove into oncoming traffic while traveling the county's back roads, a Carroll Circuit judge has ruled.

In an order filed yesterday, Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold said testimony that would support such a portrayal was inadmissible. The order said Mr. Martin's alleged bad driving in the past was irrelevant at his trial on two counts of automobile manslaughter.

Mr. Martin, 21, of New Windsor was indicted in December on charges stemming from a head-on collision that claimed the lives of two men on Dec. 12, 1992. Gary Schisler, 25, and Andy Stonesifer, 18, both of New Windsor, were killed when a pickup truck driven by Mr. Martin ran into another pickup on Route 407. The driver of the other pickup, Carroll Lynn Schisler Jr., Gary Schisler's brother, was injured in the accident, as was Mr. Martin.

The men who were killed were passengers in Mr. Martin's truck.

According to court records and police reports, Mr. Martin is alleged to have driven into the path of Mr. Schisler's truck, which was towing a livestock trailer. Mr. Schisler was unable to get out of the way before the crash, court records state.

In a hearing last month, prosecutors asked Judge Arnold to allow them to present testimony about Mr. Martin's driving habits. Prosecutors said several people -- including friends of Mr. Martin's -- would testify that the defendant routinely drove on the wrong side of the road, drove faster than the speed limit and, on occasion, would threaten to drive Carroll Lynn Schisler Jr. off the road.

Defense attorney Russell J. White argued that the proposed testimony would unfairly prejudice his client. Yesterday, he said that if the judge had not ruled in his favor, he was prepared to counter the prosecution testimony with assertions that Carroll Schisler also drove recklessly in the past.

Deputy State's Attorney Edward M. Ulsch said yesterday that he was satisfied with the judge's ruling and that he was prepared for trial.

The case is scheduled for trial March 23.

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