Mistakes in murder case took justice system over a decade to correct

Kati Gardella, Crier Staff

The 2003 murder of Mark Fisher, known as the “Grid Kid Slaying” exploded in the media, as he was the ideal student; a former prom king, a National Honor Society member, and a skilled football and basketball player.

The complexity of the case, however, transcended beyond a reputable victim being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The murder trial became one of the most convoluted endeavors in the history of the American criminal justice system.

On Columbus Day of 2003, Fairfield University student Mark Fisher went on a trip to Manhattan to go barhopping with a group of friends.

Fisher went off on his own due to his fake ID being rejected and connected with a girl named Angel DiPietro, at another bar.  She also was a student at Fairfield University.

Through Angel, he was introduced to a girl named Meredith, whom he quickly connected with. The group then met up with two young men named Albert Cleary and John Giuca.

They then relocated to a party hosted at Giuca’s house. At this point, everything started to fall apart.

Fisher was already quite intoxicated, and started to get rowdy, which annoyed Giuca. Fisher and Meredith had also hit it off, which bothered Giuca, as he was also interested in her.

To make matters worse, they continued to serve alcohol and pass around joints. During this, Antonio Russo, one of Giuca’s friends arrived.

Russo was a seventeen year old high school dropout with a penchant for carrying guns. He and Giuca were members of a casual street gang known as the “Ghetto Mafia”, which was heavily inspired by The Sopranos.

Mark Fisher was an easy target, a privileged college student who was unfamiliar with the area, and was quite inebriated.

The next morning, Mark Fisher’s body was discovered lying facedown on a blanket in front of a house on a nearby road.

The investigation took forever to begin, and was abundantly flawed.

The most critical information about the case was obtained by the people who were partying with Fisher before his death, and who were in an altered state of mind during the time of the murder.

Forensic evidence was minimal. Police were unable to determine if Fisher was shot while in or outside the car that briefly transported his body before he was dumped in front of the house.

The car itself, nor the remaining bullet casings were never found, nor was the murder weapon itself.

Giuca and Russo were put on trial, as their gang involvement made them the most likely suspects. During the trial, witness statements often contradicted each other.

The key witness that determined the outcome of the case was the jailhouse informant John Avitto. At one point, he had shared a cell with Giuca, during which time Giuca happened to confess that he actively participated in killing Mark Fisher.

The testimony was not credible in the slightest. First, Avitto was called by prosecution to testify on the last day, without any notice to the defense that he would be introduced.

Avitto was a drug addict and possessed a lengthy criminal record.

He had recently finished a drug treatment program, and still had to serve a seven year long sentence for burglary.

He testified that he was not incentivized by prosecution, but this turned out to be false. He has since recanted his testimony and has apologized to Giuca for lying.

The prosecutor in the case was Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi, who was the chief of homicide trials at the time, and also a prominent television personality of a crime-related show.

She was over-sensationalized and claimed that she had never lost a homicide case. The entire case was extremely biased towards prosecuting Giuca.

John Giuca was sentenced to life in prison for the murder.

Frustrated by the shortcomings of the justice system, Giuca’s mother took matters into her own hands to gather information that would concretely indicate that serious trial errors occurred.

She realized that one of the members of the jury knew of her son before the crime or the trial, which is not allowed. Knowing this was not enough, however, as she didn’t have a way to prove this connection.

She drastically changed her appearance to look younger and provocative, and constantly rode a bike around the area where the juror lived. She eventually got his attention and they went out for drinks a few times. During their conversations, she wore a wire.

She gradually eased their conversations toward the Giuca case, and one night he admitted that he knew John Giuca beforehand, and also expressed an anti-Semitic sentiment that biased him against Giuca.

He confessed this, unaware that he was being recorded and that the woman he was speaking with was Giuca’s mother. When Giuca’s mother presented this evidence, however, the judge dismissed it because it was illegally obtained.

The case underwent countless special hearings until February 7th of this year, when his murder conviction was thrown out by an appellate court, driven by the various violations made by the prosecutor.

A retrial has been ordered, but Giuca was not given bail. The prosecution also filed papers to appeal the appellate court’s decision.

In early April, Russo confessed to the murder, taking full blame. Giuca is still being held, with a new trial set for May 1st.

The New York Times described this case as “never-ending,” but hopefully Giuca will be freed in the near future.