Witness credibilty a big issue in 2002 Johnsburg murder retrial
A retrial in the 2002 murder case of a Johnsburg teen began Tuesday in McHenry County, with the state's primary witness again testifying he punched and knocked out Brian Carrick over a drug debt.
Mario Casciaro, 29, first went on trial in January 2012 for the murder of Carrick, 17. The trial ended with a hung jury and Judge Sharon Prather declared a mistrial.
Tuesday, the state's main witness, Shane Lamb, again took the witness stand as he did in 2012. Testimony from Lamb, who has been to prison five times and cut a deal with prosecutors for immunity, was nearly identical this time around.
Lamb said Casciaro called him Dec. 20, 2002, to have him "talk" to Carrick. Carrick, Lamb and others were selling marijuana for Casciaro and Carrick owed Casciaro money.
Lamb, now 28, said he went to Val's Grocery, where they all worked, and argued with Carrick and pushed him by his face into a produce cooler with Casciaro following behind them.
"I lost my temper and hit him and he fell down," testified Lamb, who then said Casciaro told him to leave.
Carrick was never seen again and his body has not been found.
Lamb said Casciaro, who was charged in the case in 2010, never told him to beat up Carrick in order to make him pay up. Lamb said he swung twice at Carrick before he fell straight back onto the concrete floor and Lamb thought he merely had knocked him out.
"There was blood. Not a lot. Maybe some coming from his nose," Lamb said. "I didn't think it was anything. I thought the kid got knocked out."
Defense attorney Brian Telander questioned Lamb's credibility.
Telander noted that Lamb had been to prison four times for violent crimes and cut a deal after a 2009 cocaine arrest that had him looking at up to 30 years in prison.
Lamb cut a deal with prosecutors for immunity in exchange for his testimony in the case and a six-year prison term, of which he only had to serve half the time. The problem is, Telander said, of the five statements Lamb has given to authorities about the murder -- all were different.
Telander pointed to past interviews with authorities and grand jury testimony in which Lamb acknowledged he could have struck the fatal blow to Carrick, who was much smaller than Lamb and also had a heart condition.
But with immunity in the case, Telander asked Lamb, "It might be that you killed (Carrick) and you get zero for that?"
"Yes," Lamb answered.
In his opening argument, McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs argued Casciaro enlisted the help of Lamb to do his dirty work.
"This is nothing more than a collection of a drug debt. Drugs are a dirty business and Brian Carrick was in over his head," Combs told the jury of six men and six women. "When Brian didn't pay, (Casciaro) sicced his henchman (Lamb) on him. Brian Carrick never stood a chance."
Telander also pointed to an incident last summer at a bar in which he said a local attorney observed Lamb acting aggressively toward Casciaro. During the incident, Lamb supposedly told Casciaro that "I just said what they told me to say" and "They came at me with a murder indictment."
In testimony Tuesday, Lamb said he was approached by Casciaro and an attorney, but refused to talk to them about the case.
"The bottom line is I didn't want to talk to them without my lawyer," Lamb said.
Prosecutors have not argued that Casciaro struck the fatal blow against Carrick; the state argues that Casciaro should be held criminally responsible for Carrick's murder because Casciaro was acting with others on the night of Dec. 20, 2002.
If convicted, Casciaro faces between 20 and 60 years in prison.
The trial is expected to run into next week and Lamb's cross examination will continue Wednesday morning.