Guilty verdict in Johnsburg man's 2002 death
After almost eight hours of deliberations -- and more than 10 years after Brian Carrick's death -- a McHenry County jury declared Mario Casciaro guilty of first-degree murder Tuesday evening.
It's the second time a jury has considered the case againstCasciaro, 29, who was initially charged in 2010 with the 17-year-old Johnsburg resident's death. That jury could not reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared.
In 2002, prosecutors alleged that a drug debt led to a physical altercation orchestrated by Casciaro and carried out against Carrick by another man, Shane Lamb.
Carrick's body was never found.
This jury listened to closing statements Tuesday morning before Judge Sharon Prather handed the case over.
The verdict stunned defense attorney Brian Telander, a retired judge and former chief prosecutor in DuPage County,who said he was shocked at the outcome and plans to file a motion for a new trial right away.
"Obviously, we were extremely disappointed and surprised because we felt that Shane Lamb's testimony was totally false and that the physical evidence showed that he couldn't be telling the truth," Telander said. "Plus, he lied on four different occasions."
Prosecutors did not argue Casciaro struck the final blow against Carrick, but the state said Casciaro should be convicted of first-degree murder because he was acting with others on the night of Dec. 20, 2002, at the grocery store Casciaro's family owned in Johnsburg.
During his closing statement, McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally painted Casciaro as a "wannabe drug-dealing tough guy" who used another man -- star witness Shane Lamb -- as the muscle to collect on a drug debt from Carrick. All three were working at the grocery store at the time of the murder. The defense says Carrick was murdered near the store's walk-in cooler.
Lamb and others were selling marijuana for Casciaro, and Carrick owed Casciaro money, according to Lamb's previous testimony.
Not only did Casciaro direct Lamb to intimidate Carrick at the store, but Casciaro never took responsibility for his death and tried to cover it up by getting rid of the body, Kenneally said.
"There is no other person ... that had the opportunity to cause Brian Carrick to disappear from the face of the earth other than the defendant," Kenneally said.
But during his own closing statement, defense attorney Brian Telander reminded the jury that Lamb, whom he said hates Casciaro, had been to prison five times and could say whatever he wanted because he cut a deal with prosecutors for immunity in exchange for his testimony. And as a result, he only had to serve half of the 6-year sentence he received for a 2009 cocaine arrest.
Telander also called Lamb's credibility into question.
In court, Lamb said Casciaro called him on that December day to have him "talk" to Carrick. Lamb, who was much bigger than Carrick, testified that he argued with the teen -- who had a heart condition -- and pushed him by the face into the cooler, with Casciaro following behind him. Once in the cooler, Lamb testified, he swung twice at Carrick before the teenager fell onto the concrete floor.
But in previous interviews with Lamb, the number of times he said he hit Carrick and the way he got into the cooler varied, Telander said.
"What you should believe is Shane is a liar," Telander told the jury. "He's lying about lying about lying. He can't tell the truth."
And if you choose to believe Lamb, he said, all Casciaro did was ask him to talk to Carrick.
"It's not a crime in this country to talk to someone," Telander said.
Another witness, Alan Lippert, admitted he'd had two beers and two shots of alcohol just before he gave information to police about statements he said Casciaro made that implicated Lamb and Casciaro, Telander noted.
That means Lippert is not a credible witness and that his testimony is also questionable, Telander said.
"It has to be acceptable, you have to be sure," Telander told the jury. "You can't guess people guilty."
During his rebuttal, McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs pointed out Casciaro's own inconsistencies during police interviews and grand jury proceedings and said he should be held accountable for what happened.
"This defendant set these chain of events in place and this family here never got to bury their son or their brother," Combs said.
Casciaro could spend between 20 and 60 years in prison.
Telander plans to immediately file a motion for a new trial at a hearing scheduled for April 30. A sentencing date may be established at the hearing, as well.
"We're disappointed obviously, but we're not done," he said. "We'll certainly file a new motion for another trial, and if that's denied, we'll file an appeal."