Citing Misconduct, Lawyer Seeks Review of Conviction in
’03 Brooklyn Killing
By VIVIAN YEE
JAN. 30, 2014
The murder riveted New York City and stymied detectives for months:
What chance meetings and turns of fate led Mark Fisher, a photogenic
19-year-old college football player from New Jersey, to end up shot
dead on a quiet Brooklyn street, his body wrapped in a yellow blanket?
More than eight years after two young men Mr. Fisher had met during a
midautumn night of barhopping and partying in 2003 were convicted in
his killing, a lawyer for one of the men, John Giuca, is preparing to
ask the new Brooklyn district attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson, to
overturn his client’s conviction. Mr. Giuca’s lawyer, Mark Bederow,
said in an interview that he planned to cite what he called serious
flaws in the trial and misconduct by prosecutors.
Bederow also pointed to conflicts of interest involving the
district attorney at the time, Charles J. Hynes, who last year lost a
re-election bid to Mr. Thompson amid reports he had presided over a
series of wrongful murder convictions and a pattern of prosecutorial
misconduct in his office.
Mr. Giuca’s conviction was considered a victory for Mr. Hynes, who was
in a tough re-election fight at the time; its review now carries
political overtones for Mr. Thompson, whom defense lawyers are pressing
to make good on a campaign theme by aggressively investigating the
possible wrongful convictions.
“We have thoroughly reinvestigated the case for several months, and
none of the incriminating evidence that was presented to the jury was
credible,” said Mr. Bederow, who also cast doubt on prosecutors’ theory
of the case, saying prosecutors had presented five different chains of
events at Mr. Giuca’s trial. “We believe that the entire foundation of
the case against him has crumbled.”
Mr. Giuca, who was 20 when Mr. Fisher died, is serving a sentence of 25
years to life; the other convicted man, Antonio Russo, who was 17 at
the time, is serving the same sentence. Mr. Giuca captured headlines
again in 2008 when his mother, Doreen Giuliano, revealed she had
disguised herself and used a false identity to record one of the jurors
in her son’s trial admitting that he should have been disqualified from
Several appeals on Mr. Giuca’s behalf, including one citing Ms.
Giuliano’s recordings, have been unsuccessful.
Mr. Bederow said Mr. Giuca’s prosecution was riddled with police and
prosecutorial misconduct, though he declined to describe specific
problems. The district attorney’s team in the case included Mr. Hynes’s
longtime deputy Michael F. Vecchione, who has been accused of
intimidating and coercing witnesses in other cases. (Mr. Vecchione and
Mr. Hynes have denied the allegations.)
The district attorney’s office declined to comment on Wednesday.
Mr. Vecchione began supervising the Fisher case after investigators
spent months trying to persuade several key witnesses in the case to
cooperate, to little avail. Some were friends and classmates of Mr.
Fisher, a sophomore at Fairfield University, who joined him at an Upper
East Side bar that night. Others were people he met that night,
including Mr. Giuca, who invited Mr. Fisher and other young people to
his home in Prospect Park South for the night.
In the early morning hours, prosecutors said, Mr. Giuca and Mr. Russo,
who they said belonged to a local gang called the Ghetto Mafia, lured
Mr. Fisher outside and killed him. They offered several theories for
how the murder occurred. In one version of events, Mr. Giuca gave Mr.
Russo the gun and told him to shoot Mr. Fisher after Mr. Fisher angered
Mr. Giuca by sitting on a table; in another, Mr. Giuca and Mr. Russo
both shot him.
Antonio Russo was also convicted of the murder. After
investigators intensified pressure on witnesses under Mr.
Vecchione, Mr. Giuca and Mr. Russo implicated each other, and two
others agreed to testify: Albert Cleary, one of the young men’s
Brooklyn friends and who lived near Mr. Giuca, and Angel DiPietro, a
classmate of Mr. Fisher who went to Mr. Giuca’s house with them. They
said that they had been asleep in Mr. Cleary’s house, near where Mr.
Fisher’s body was found, but that they had heard no gunshots.
Even after the arrests, Mr. Fisher’s parents said publicly that they
believed others in the group of young people partying at Mr. Giuca’s
house were involved in the murder. They later sued Ms. DiPietro, saying
she had failed to keep Mr. Fisher safe. The lawsuit was dismissed in
In 2012, Mr. Hynes hired Ms. DiPietro as an
attorney. Her father, James DiPietro, a prominent defense lawyer, has
donated to Mr. Hynes several times, including $3,000 in 2012. When
political opponents criticized Mr. Hynes for Ms. DiPietro’s hiring last
year, he said through a spokesman that it was unrelated to the Fisher
Mr. Bederow said there was “the appearance of a conflict of interest”
in Mr. Hynes’s relationship with Mr. Cleary, who was on probation in
2003 after assaulting a man and who had waived the customary immunity
that witnesses receive before testifying before the grand jury in the
Fisher case, leaving himself open to prosecution.
Facing a challenging Democratic primary in 2005, Mr. Hynes received
help in the form of an endorsement from the Brooklyn Republican Party’s
executive committee, of which Mr. Cleary’s mother, Susan Cleary, was a
member, allowing him to run as a Republican in the general election if
he lost the primary. His statement at the time thanked Ms. Cleary for
Ms. Cleary and her son could not be reached for comment. Mr. Hynes did
not respond to a voice mail message requesting comment on Thursday.