Prosecutors add years of know-how

Broccolino, Campbell bring administrative and trial experience

May 04, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

During the murder-for-hire trials of Ruthann Aron, defense attorneys threw complicated psychological testimony at Montgomery County prosecutor I. Matthew Campbell.

But Campbell had done his homework -- and eventually won a conviction.

"Here you had a state's attorney who spends his whole career learning criminal issues and having to essentially learn the whole area of psychiatry," said Circuit Court Judge Paul A. McGuckian, who oversaw Aron's first trial.

"He did as well as any medical malpractice lawyer," McGuckian said.

In January, Campbell left Montgomery to join the Howard County state's attorney's office as a deputy and will handle Circuit Court operations, including grand jury proceedings.

Campbell, 53, will draw heavily on his experience in the Aron case while prosecuting a Columbia man accused of fatally shooting his estranged wife and seriously wounding her daughter outside the Howard County courthouse last month. The defendant, Tuse S. Liu, is undergoing psychological testing.

"I anticipate that there may very well be psychiatric issues, and I hope to make use of that experience," Campbell said.

Campbell joins another new deputy, Dario Broccolino, who handles the administrative side of the office, District Court and the child-support unit. Before joining the office in January, Broccolino was state's attorneys coordinator and an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore for 17 years.

Improving morale

State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon said she recruited Campbell and Broccolino to beef up her office after deputy Les Gross resigned. Both earn $87,000 a year.

"This is my one chance to really bring in experience," McLendon said. "They're enthusiastic. I keep having to tell Matt and Dario not to take on too many things."

Courtroom observers and prosecutors said Campbell and Broccolino have improved morale in the office, which had suffered in the past few years.

Though Campbell is learning his new job in Howard, prosecutors say they are taking advantage of his 24 years of experience in a much bigger and busier county.

Assistant State's Attorney Lara Weathersbee said Campbell has given her advice about delivering evidence to juries and investigating cases. Assistant State's Attorney Keith Cave said Campbell calmed him down during a grueling four-day trial and gave him tips on his closing arguments.

"He's very approachable," Cave said.

Campbell left Montgomery County after November's election. Newly elected Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas Gansler planned to demote Campbell to assistant from deputy, a position he had held for 14 years. Assistant state's attorneys are front-line prosecutors and deputies are second-in-command of the office.

"We didn't see eye-to-eye on the important business of prosecuting cases," Campbell said. "I was very uncomfortable with the new administration."

Changes instituted

Campbell has instituted some changes in Howard County. Prosecutors are now assigned cases after an indictment. Before, several prosecutors could handle a case before it went to trial.

He also has encouraged prosecutors to be more accessible to police officers, who complain that their phone calls are not returned and they are not always notified of plea agreements.

"We're going to Southern District to meet them," said Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy. "A little effort goes a long way."

Police officers aren't so sure. Some said they have not noticed those results yet. And Campbell, prosecutors say, is aware that the relationship is strained.

That's nothing new to Campbell. He investigated police officers and prosecuted them during his tenure in Montgomery. One high-profile case involved the fatal shooting of an unarmed Gaithersburg woman in 1991. Campbell won a conviction.

"A good percentage of the police union, the department, made it very difficult for him," said Andrew L. Sonner, who was then state's attorney. "But he set his jaw and went ahead with an extremely well-tried case."

Meticulously organized

Campbell, a man known for his intellect, laughs often -- and loudly -- when he talks on the phone or chats about almost anything, including a thin, tall, winding tree in his office that seems better suited for a Dr. Seuss story.

Known as a meticulously organized man, Campbell dresses the part in neatly pressed suits, shirts and conservative ties. His black, gray-speckled hair is perfectly parted, and his rimmed eyeglasses sit evenly on his nose.

Since he was a child, Campbell wanted to be a lawyer -- a defense attorney, actually. At 11, he moved to Vietnam and later Japan with his father, who worked in the United States Information Agency.

In 1967, he graduated from Pomona College in California, joined the Peace Corps and taught English to teachers in the Philippines.

"It was a rich experience," said Campbell, sitting behind his wooden desk as classical music drifted from a radio. "It gave me a perspective on values."

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