McHenry state's attorney hopefuls differ on Casciaro case
Two candidates squaring off to be the next McHenry County state's attorney have differing views on the case of Mario Casciaro, convicted of a 2002 murder after two trials but released from prison after an appellate court overturned the guilty verdict and voided his sentence.
The state's Supreme Court declined to hear the case after McHenry prosecutors appealed. Casciaro is due in court Friday seeking a certificate of innocence in the murder of Brian Carrick, 17, whose body has not been found.
Patrick Kenneally, first assistant state's attorney, is running as a Republican to fill the 4-year seat that will be vacated by Lou Bianchi, who is not seeking re-election.
Ray Flavin, a defense attorney from Woodstock, is running as a Democrat.
The first Casciaro trial ended with a hung jury, and he was convicted in a second trial in 2013 and sentenced to 26 years in prison.
Prosecutors granted Shane Lamb blanket immunity for his testimony in the case. Carrick owed Casciaro money from selling marijuana, and Casciaro enlisted Lamb to help him get it from Carrick, prosecutors alleged. All three met in a produce cooler in December 2002 in a grocery store owned by Casciaro's parents in Johnsburg.
Lamb testified he got angry with Carrick and punched him, and Carrick fell backward onto the concrete floor. Lamb testified that Casciaro told Lamb to leave, and Carrick was never seen again.
Lamb has since recanted his testimony.
Kenneally, 37, defended how prosecutors handled the case. He said only one of 12 jurors in Casciaro's first trial thought he was not guilty. The appellate ruling never said prosecutors withheld evidence, and Casciaro was represented by Brian Telander, who has since been appointed a judge.
Prosecutors had an obligation to pursue justice for Carrick and his family, Kenneally said.
"Mario Casciaro is responsible for taking Brian's body -- and nobody's seen it again -- to protect himself and to protect his family business," Kenneally said. "This is a case where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. As state's attorney, you have to take tough cases."
Flavin, 55, said he did not think prosecution was handled properly but acknowledged that he did not have intimate details of the case, only what he had read in the media. Still, Flavin said it was questionable to grant Lamb immunity, as well as employ a rarely used statute of murder by intimidation in an effort to convict Casciaro.
"It's one thing to say, 'I'm ready to address tough cases.' It's another to go out on a limb and it didn't work out," Flavin said.
The appellate court's ruling was critical of Lamb's testimony and said evidence was "so lacking" and "so improbable" that Casciaro's conviction couldn't stand.
"That was a strong rebuke in the pursuit of that case," Flavin said.