Scenes from the start of the Sheldene Campbell trial

More than three years after Sheldene Campbell (left) killed one woman and injured another in a hit-and-run rampage in White Plains, her murder and assault trial opened today in Westchester County Court.  County Judge Barbara Zambelli, who is a stickler for starting proceedings at 9:30 a.m. sharp, had to delay opening statements for nearly an hour because of a string of unforeseen circumstances.

First, defense lawyer Allan Laurence Brenner was a half-hour late because did not have an up-to-date attorney’s pass and had to wait in the long, long courthouse security line to enter. Zambelli admonished him but said she would ask court security to accept his expired pass. Then she apologized to Brenner for getting his first name wrong during in previous court proceedings, when she apparently referred to him by his middle name. She chided him and prosecutor Christine O’Connor for never correcting her. Brenner kidded that his name was unimportant to the case.

Then, the appointed jury foreman was dismissed after telling Zambelli that he questioned his own objectivity because two of his family members are retired law enforcement officers. A female juror took his place.

The panel for Campbell’s trial also has an unusual pair of jurors: a husband and wife team. The wife was called in separately and promised — as her husband did previously —that she would follow the judge’s orders to not talk about the case until deliberations began. Zambelli, who oversees a plethora of criminal trials every year, seeemed amazed that a married couple was picked for the same jury: “This is an all-time first for me,” she said.

By the time the jury entered, the courtroom was packed. Family and friends of the victims filled the front row on one side while prosecutors and spectators filled the rows behind them. The other side of the courtroom was packed with teenaged girls from Maria Regina High School in Hartsdale, who were observing the proceedings as an assignment.

Campbell, who has been in jail since Oct. 29. 2008, is facing 25 years to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, the top charge. Her trial will continue on Wednesday.

3 years after fatal hit-and-run, suspect going to trial

More than three years after Sheldene Campbell was arrested for causing a fatal hit-and-run rampage in White Plains, a jury for her murder trial will be selected on Monday.

Campbell, a 40-year-old mother of two who lived in Pomona before her arrest, is charged with intentionally striking and killing 65-year-old Marie Bucci on Oct. 19, 2008, moments after hitting 46-year-old Roseanne Schiavone in an Acura MDX.

She was indicted on felony counts of second-degree murder and attempted murder, first-degree attempted assault and leaving the scene; and misdemeanor counts of leaving the scene and third-degree assault.

Campbell has been held at Westchester County jail in Valhalla since Oct. 29, 2008, when her bail was raised to $200,000. After she was indicted on a murder charge, her bail was revoked.

The case against her hit a snag when Westchester County Judge Susan Cacace dropped the murder and assault charges  in July 2009, saying there wasn’t enough proof that she meant to kill and hurt her victims. An appeals court overturned her ruling and reinstated the charges in January 2010.

Another delay came as the defense raised questions about Campbell’s mental capacity. Two psychologists who examined Campbell testified at a competency hearing last year that she was fit to stand trial, despite having schizophrenia and hearing voices telling her she will win her criminal case.

Campbell, a former court reporter for the state Workers Compensation Board in New York City,  still has charges pending against her in New Jersey. Three weeks before the fatal collision in White Plains, she was arrested in Woodcliff Lake, N.J., accused of driving over a lawn, almost hitting a jogger, abandoning her 10-year-old son and assaulting a police officer. She was hospitalized for a week.