Frustrated by his inability to get a Portuguese court translator fluent in his native Brazilian dialect, Marcos Costa, the man facing murder charges in the Angeles Crest Highway runaway truck crash that killed two people last year, asked a judge on Tuesday for a Spanish alternative.
A native of Brazil who has relied on a Portuguese court translator while acting as his own attorney in defending against murder charges that could send him to prison for life, Costa told a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Tuesday that he'd prefer to proceed to trial with a Spanish translator instead.
The language issue came up during a pretrial hearing at the Pasadena courthouse in which Deputy Dist. Atty. Carolina Lugo produced thousands of pages of police reports and court transcripts, as well as hundreds of accident scene photographs for Costa to review in preparing for his own defense while behind bars.
Earlier this month, Costa drafted a motion to dismiss the murder charges against him, arguing he was a victim of selective prosecution.
Costa also plans to argue that he was targeted in June 2009 for a grand jury murder indictment because he is an immigrant Latino.
He also alleges that murder convictions against him could relieve the government of civil liability in wrongful-death suits filed by the survivors of the two people killed in the April 1, 2009, crash at Angeles Crest Highway and Foothill Boulevard in La Cañada Flintridge.
Palmdale resident Angel Posca and his 12-year-old daughter Angelina died and three others were seriously injured when Costa's truck plowed through the busy intersection and crashed into the Flintridge Bookstore.
Targets of the lawsuits include the California Department of Transportation, Los Angeles County and the city of La Cañada Flintridge, as well as Costa, the trucking company that employed him and global satellite positioning system device makers Garmin International.
Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench first brought up the language issue, telling Costa that his Portuguese interpreter struggled to translate statements by him that contained a blend of Portuguese and Spanish.
Costa at first asked for a Portuguese translator fluent in the Brazilian dialect, but Lench said no such translator was available.
"Because over the last year-and-a-half I spoke a lot of English and Spanish, and I don't have any books [in jail] in Portuguese, I'm studying Spanish. If there isn't a Brazilian interpreter, I'd prefer to return to a Spanish interpreter. It is much better for me," Costa said through his Portuguese interpreter, who was promptly dismissed and replaced with a Spanish speaker.
Costa is scheduled to return to court Dec. 16 for another pretrial hearing. The trial is expected to start as early as mid-January.
Members of the Posca family have declined to comment since a pretrial hearing on Nov. 4, when Costa turned down a deal to drop the murder charges in exchange for pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter — and a prison sentence of up to 16 years — parted ways with his attorney, and moved to represent himself at trial.
Longtime family friend Kristen Eddy, a Pasadena clinical psychologist who has been at each hearing, said family members are withholding statements until after jury selection is completed.
"We do have comments in regard to the case and Mr. Costa's statements; however, we want Mr. Costa to get the fairest trial possible, and we don't want to taint the potential jury pool," Eddy said.