LANCASTER — The jury trial of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy is set to get underway in Coos County Superior Court on July 26, just over three years after the collision that left seven members of the JarHead Motorcycle Club dead.
The day before the trial, the jury will be taken to the scene of the June 21, 2019, crash on Route 2 in Randolph. There they will see where the pick-up truck and flatbed trailer driven by Zhukovskyy collided with the group of motorcyclists traveling to Gorham to plan their annual meeting the next day.
Zhukovskyy, 26, of West Springfield, Mass., has been charged with seven counts of negligent homicide, seven counts of negligent homicide-DUI, seven counts of manslaughter, and one count of reckless conduct in the collision. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts and has been held in protective custody since in his arrest.
As the trial nears, the state and defense are filing motions, battling over what evidence will be presented to the jury.
The defense is asking the court to bar the state from showing the jury seven photographs it calls “particularly gruesome” in the way they show the bodies of the deceased motorcyclists. In his motion, public defender Steve Mirkin said the cause and time of death of the motorcyclists is not in dispute and the defense will stipulate to that. He wrote that the seven photographs do not deal with any issues at trial and are disturbing and may prejudice the jury. Mirkin said the defense does not object to the remaining photographs submitted by the state.
In its response, the state said it went to great lengths to limit both the volume of photographs as well as the amount of explicit or gruesome material that the jury will see. The state said the case generated nearly 2,000 photographs and videos which it reduced to 151 it believes are necessary to make its case. Most of the photographs are images of the truck, trailer, motorcycles, and the scene but the motion said a limited number contain images of the bodies that the state argues are necessary to provide context and show a full picture of the scene. The state said the defense can request the judge deliver a cautionary instruction to the jury at the time the photographs are admitted.
The two sides also disagree on the admission of portions of an interview two N.H. State Police detectives conducted with Zhukovskyy in Massachusetts three days after the collision. The defense wants to exclude statements Zhukovskyy allegedly made about his parents’ reaction to his arrest and feeling sorry for those who died in the collision and their families. The defense motion argues that part of the interview has little relevance to the issues in the case.
The state differs, pointing to statements Zhukovskyy allegedly made about needing a good lawyer, and expecting to go to jail as evidence the defendant knew he had done something wrong.
The state said Zhukovskyy’s alleged statements, like, “You know, like, I mean, I said I shouldn’t have been driving is one of the things. And if I wouldn’t be driving, those people wouldn’t have — would have not died,” show his consciousness of guilt.
The defense also wants to exclude the section of the interview about Zhukovskyy’s alleged drug use on days unrelated to the June 21 collision. The defense has also filed a motion to limit the testimony of the state’s toxicology witness, Donna Papsun, on whether Zhukovskyy or motorcyclist Albert Mazza were intoxicated or impaired at the time of the crash. The defense noted the court has ruled its expert witness Dr. Edward Sellers can not testify on those issues because he was not present at the time of the crash. The defense said Papsun was also not present at the scene.
Under the schedule approved for the case, the state has until May 17 to depose all of the defense’s expert witnesses, and the defense has until June 10 to depose all of the state’s expert witnesses.
Final pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 13 with jury selection getting underway July 18. The trial is expected to take three weeks.