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posted: 4/7/2010 12:01 AM

Appellate court upholds Aurora cold-case convictions

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  • John Barsanti

      John Barsanti

 

The Illinois Second District Appellate Court has upheld a pair of convictions stemming from a 2007 sweep involving more than 30 cold-case gang killings in Aurora, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti said the rulings essentially affirm the credibility of cooperating witnesses instrumental in pursuing the cases, some decades old.

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"We feel this is a very important opinion for our office, and the cold cases," he said. "Basically, it's all about the credibility of the witnesses."

The most recent appellate ruling came March 26, when the court affirmed the February 2008 conviction of Michael Luciano, 37, in the 1989 shooting death of 20-year-old Willie Acre of Aurora.

The other, handed down in January, upheld the conviction of Luciano's father and reputed gang leader Angel Luciano, 58, who was found guilty in December 2007 of orchestrating the Acre murder.

Barsanti said prosecutors relied heavily on cooperating witnesses - many of them former gang members or accomplices - as well as corroborating evidence.

"You like to have as much corroboration as you can," he said. "You don't get a second chance."

The decisions show that the court believed a "rational juror" could have drawn the same conclusion about the witnesses' credibility as the jurors who convicted the Lucianos, Barsanti said.

While the rulings cannot be cited as precedent in future cases, Barsanti said they indicate how a court might interpret similar cases.

Since the June 2007 sweep, 11 defendants were convicted, six were acquitted and seven had the charges dismissed, according to prosecutors. Seven cases are pending.

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