As Mario Casciaro walked out of lock up and into a McHenry County courtroom wearing county issued orange garb, he blew a kiss to family members who were in court in the hopes of having his murder conviction overturned.
But they all will need to wait until Sept. 24 for Judge Sharon Prather to make her ruling.
Casciaro, 30, appeared in court on a motion to appeal his conviction. He has been in jail since being found guilty in April of first-degree murder with intimidation, in the murder of 17-year-old Brian Carrick.
Carrick worked as a stockboy with Casciaro at Val’s Foods in Johnsburg. The grocery store was partly owned by the Casciaro family at the time.
Carrick was last seen alive with Casciaro and Shane Lamb on the evening of Dec. 20, 2002.
Casciaro has long been accused of calling in Lamb to collect a $500 drug debt from Carrick.
This was Casciaro’s second first-degree murder trial. The first trial ended last year in a hung jury.
During both trials, Lamb, who has received immunity in the case in exchange for his testimony, testified that Casciaro asked him to come to the grocery store and help collect his money. Lamb further testified that he became angry with Carrick and punched him and Carrick fell to the ground inside the cooler unconscious. Blood was coming from his nose. Lamb said he then left and doesn’t know what happened to Carrick after that. Lamb said he never saw Carrick again.
Prosecutors have long said that Casciaro knowingly used Lamb as an “enforcer,” “intimidator” and “thug” to get the money from Carrick.
Brian Telander, Casciaro’s attorney, argued that even Lamb himself testified in both trials that he was never told by Casciaro to hurt or intimidate Carrick.
“At no time did (Casciaro) tell Shane Lamb to threaten (Carrick) to get the money,” Telander said adding that at no time did Casciaro tell Lamb to “intimidate,” or “kick his butt,” or “scare him to get the money.”
“He told Lamb ‘come and talk to (Brian),’” Telander insisted. “Come talk to him about the money.”
Telander said that the jury’s conviction was wrong and not based on evidence that was “believable beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“The jury got it wrong,” he said during the hearing. “Lamb said he got there, got in an argument … ‘I lost my temper and I hit him.’” At no time did he say he threatened Brian Carrick. … “At no time did (Mario) say anything or do anything or make a threat. Shane Lamb only acted out of anger.”
Investigators have said that Carrick’s blood was found in and around the produce cooler where witnesses testified to last seeing him with Casciaro and Lamb. His blood also was found on boxes in an outside garbage dumpster behind the store.
His body has never been found.
Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally strongly disagreed with Telander’s claims.
“If Shane Lamb wasn’t there to intimidate Brian Carrick, then exactly what was he there to do?” Kenneally said. “Why couldn’t (Casciaro) just ask Brian Carrick for the money? Shane Lamb had a reputation for violence. Shane Lamb was known as a person who was violent, he was known as the person to collect the money for Mario Casciaro.”
Kenneally pointed out that Lamb was a big guy in comparison to Carrick’s small frame.
“Shane Lamb is intimidating,” Kenneally said. “Shane Lamb will engage in violence. It’s just that simple. The defendant was well aware of what he was doing when he brought Shane Lamb in.”
Outside the courtroom, Telander said he was “encouraged” that (Prather) is taking this seriously. I’m thrilled she’s doing this.”
Along side Telander stood Kathleen Zellner, a high-profile attorney known on a national level for representing people whose civil rights have been violated, according to her website.
Telander said should his motion to overturn the conviction not be successful in Prather’s courtroom, Zellner will take the case on to the appellate court.
Zellner said Casciaro was wrongfully convicted of intimidation in a case where there was “no threat at all and no weapons.”
“No court in the U.S. would support this conviction,” Zellner said adding that she is “confident” his conviction will be reversed.
In an earlier emailed statement, Mario’s sister, Joanne Casciaro, wrote that prosecutors used her brother as a “scapegoat, so they can say they solved the case.”
The family declined to comment further after the hearing.
But before parting ways after the hearing Jerry Casciaro, Mario’s father, approached William Carrick, Brian’s father. Both, broken hearted men who love their sons. The father of the accused and the father of the victim shook hands.
A sign of healing, forgiveness in a tragedy that has overshadowed one small town and hurt many lives over the last decade? Maybe.
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