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Judge denies new trial for driver who killed Italian honeymooner on Los Angeles boardwalk

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LOS ANGELES — The driver who killed an Italian honeymooner and injured 17 pedestrians when he plowed through the crowded Venice Beach boardwalk two years ago lost his bid for a new trial Wednesday after a judge rejected claims that juror misconduct prevented a fair trial.

Allegations that the jury foreman prejudged the case and that a juror improperly took home trial notes to analyze did not affect Campbell's second-degree murder conviction, Superior Court Judge Kathryn Solorzano ruled.

Campbell, 40, of Colorado, was convicted in June of killing Italian newlywed Alice Gruppioni when he drove a Dodge Avenger down the popular pedestrian walkway. He also was convicted on 17 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of leaving an accident scene.

A juror later contacted the defense to say she was concerned about the deliberations because another juror had copied trial notes into a personal notebook and took them home. That juror returned the next day with a legal analysis of the case and definition of the word "premeditation."

The juror who came forward also said the foreman declared that Campbell was guilty of "murder one" at the start of deliberations before asking jurors for a vote.

Campbell was charged with first-degree murder, but prosecutors removed that possibility as deliberations dragged into a fourth day. Jurors convicted him of the lesser charge less than an hour later.

Solorzano said the juror who complained about the deliberations had upheld her decision to convict Campbell, and the judge called her statements speculative. Further, Solorzano said to scrutinize the inner workings of the deliberation process would "lead to such havoc."

PHOTO: FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2013, file photo, a card showing the photo of Italian newlyweds Alice Gruppioni, left, and her husband Christian Casadei, is displayed on a memorial for Gruppioni along Ocean Front Walk at Venice Beach in Los Angeles. The driver who plowed through crowds on the tourist-packed Venice Beach boardwalk, killing Gruppioni, an Italian honeymooner and injuring 17 others two years ago, wants a new trial over claims of juror misconduct. Nathan Campbell, 40, was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, in a Los Angeles courtroom for second-degree murder and other charges, but lawyers said it was likely to be postponed because of arguments for a new trial. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2013, file photo, a card showing the photo of Italian newlyweds Alice Gruppioni, left, and her husband Christian Casadei, is displayed on a memorial for Gruppioni along Ocean Front Walk at Venice Beach in Los Angeles. The driver who plowed through crowds on the tourist-packed Venice Beach boardwalk, killing Gruppioni, an Italian honeymooner and injuring 17 others two years ago, wants a new trial over claims of juror misconduct. Nathan Campbell, 40, was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, in a Los Angeles courtroom for second-degree murder and other charges, but lawyers said it was likely to be postponed because of arguments for a new trial. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

"We aren't going to go into the mental processes of the jurors," she said, "particularly in this case, where the first-degree murder option was withdrawn."

Prosecutors say Campbell was trying to run down a man who ripped him off in a drug deal, but he hit innocent bystanders instead.

Campbell testified that he meant to shift the car into reverse but drove forward and then swerved to avoid pedestrians, defense lawyer James Cooper III said. Campbell was impaired from drinking earlier in the day, Cooper said.

Three of his victims spoke Wednesday about the emotional and physical toll from the Aug. 3, 2013, collision.

Judith Fox, who was injured, tearfully told the judge that she lives in fear of cars and will never return to Venice Beach.

When she heard the engine revving and an ATM machine that Campbell hit flying through the air, she thought he was on a "mission to maim and kill innocent people."

"I ask why," Fox said. "Why would anybody get in a car and intentionally set out to hurt and kill people?"

Campbell sat silently next to his lawyer in an orange jail uniform with his hands shackled around his waist. His sentencing originally scheduled for Wednesday was postponed until Sept. 25.

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PHOTO: FILE - In this Aug. 5, 2013, file photo, a card showing the photo of Italian newlyweds Alice Gruppioni, left, and her husband Christian Casadei, is displayed on a memorial for Gruppioni along Ocean Front Walk at Venice Beach in Los Angeles. The driver who plowed through crowds on the tourist-packed Venice Beach boardwalk, killing Gruppioni, an Italian honeymooner and injuring 17 others two years ago, wants a new trial over claims of juror misconduct. Nathan Campbell, 40, was scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015, in a Los Angeles courtroom for second-degree murder and other charges, but lawyers said it was likely to be postponed because of arguments for a new trial. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
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