Prosecutors to ask high court to review 2002 Johnsburg murder case
McHenry County prosecutors plan to ask the state's highest court to review the case of Mario Casciaro, who was convicted of a 2002 Johnsburg murder but recently freed from prison after an appellate court overturned the guilty verdict because of a lack of evidence.
"We are going to ask the court if they will take it," State's Attorney Lou Bianchi said. "We respectfully disagree (with the appellate court opinion)."
Casciaro, 32, was released from prison in late September after an appellate court overturned an April 2013 guilty verdict in the murder of Brian Carrick, 17, in December 2002.
Kathleen Zellner, who handled Casciaro's appeal, said they were not concerned about Bianchi's move. Zellner said the high court has discretion in which cases it takes and the appellate court opinion was unanimous.
"I'm very, very confident they will not take the case. There is nothing about the (appellate) opinion that would interest them," she said. "It's prolonging the inevitable, but we don't begrudge the filing (by prosecutors)."
Casciaro's first murder trial in February 2012 ended with a mistrial after the jury could not reach a unanimous decision.
Prosecutors argued Carrick owed Casciaro drug money and Casciaro enlisted the help of a Shane Lamb to scare 17-year-old Carrick into repaying the money.
Lamb, who had a long criminal record and was granted immunity by prosecutors, testified he and Casciaro pushed Carrick into a walk-in cooler at a grocery store to talk to him, according to trial testimony. Lamb testified that he got angry with Carrick, punched him and he fell backward onto the concrete floor and then Casciaro told Lamb to leave.
Carrick was never seen again and his body has not been found.
Casciaro was later sentenced to 26 years in prison by Judge Sharon Prather, who denied Casciaro's requests for a new trial.
An appellate court panel in September overturned the conviction, pointing to inconsistent and unreliable testimony from Lamb and others, as well and other physical evidence, such as another person's DNA in blood found in the hallway to the walk-in cooler, as reasons that Casciaro was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Bianchi said if the state's Supreme Court chooses to hear the case, prosecutors will have until Nov. 20 to submit written arguments.
Zellner said Casciaro has been reconnecting with friends since his prison release and has taken the LSAT with plans to apply to law schools in fall 2016.
"He's doing great," Zellner said, adding Casciaro was able to attend some games during the Chicago Cubs playoff run. "He's doing really well."