Okay, first off, I've got to admit that I'm a bit envious. I'm doubtful that I'd be able to pull off dropping a decade from my looks to get the job done. That said, I'm wondering if what Doreen Giuliano, 46, did was kosher. And I'm curious about what you think about her actions. Was this New York wife and mother justified? Should what she uncovered make a difference?
Bet you can picture the movie based on the case already, right? Maybe with Sharon Stone playing the lead? As if to get it ready for central casting, Doreen gave her mission a name: "The Sting."
Here's the rundown: Doreen's son John Giuca was convicted of the 2003 murder of Mark Fisher, a 19-year-old college student from Andover, N.J. At his 2005 trial, prosecutors argued that Giuca was the self-appointed honcho of a make-shift gang called the "Ghetto Mafia," and that he targeted Fisher for dissing him. According to testimony, Giuca gave one of his followers a .22 and ordered him to "go show that guy what's up." Fisher's body was found dumped on a sidewalk the next morning covered by a yellow blanket, one taken from Doreen's house. The case against Giuca was circumstantial (and some charge politically motivated), based on the inconsistent testimony of a handful of his friends and a jailhouse snitch, but it took the jury only two hours to find Giuca guilty. Along with the gunman, a 17-year-old high school dropout, Doreen's son was sentenced to 25 years to life.
There's a great, in-depth piece by Christopher Ketcham on this case in Vanity Fair magazine's current issue (January 2009). That's where the photos are from, including the one above of Doreen with her bike by Harry Benson. (My summary probably doesn't do the case justice. I'd highly recommend the full article.)
Of course the primary victim in this case was Mark Fisher (photo left), whose young life was cut short in a cold-blooded execution. Secondly, our sympathy has to be for his family, who are forever deprived of someone they love. That, I'm sure, we can all agree on.
Yet, we shouldn't be without empathy for Doreen and the rest of John's family. I've interviewed defendant's families and watched them in courtrooms, and I can assure you that they suffer as well, albeit in a different way. Their loved one is alive but convicted of a heinous act. Many don't accept the verdicts, believing their loved one is wrongly convicted. Some fear that they share in the guilt, and there's the grief that comes from knowing that a son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife, will spend decades locked up in a cell. As I've said before in blogs, no one wins in a murder case. There's more than enough suffering to spread around.
So, getting back to "The Sting"; it seems that Doreen was determined to help her son win a new trial. First she targeted other jurors, but got no where. Finally, she gave herself an extreme makeover, dyed her hair blond, dropped extra pounds, and bought a sexy wardrobe to masquerade as a flirty, thirty-something named Dee Quinn. Wearing high heels and a push-up bra, Dee focused on 33-year-old Jason Allo, a construction worker and truck driver she labeled "The Target." Artfully, Doreen/Dee orchestrated a meeting on the street in Allo's Brooklyn neighborhood and quickly insinuated herself into his life, becoming his friend. Dee dedicated herself to the quest. To lure Allo into her web, she didn't offer sex but food, pouring good bottles of wine and dishing up yummy dinners in a little apartment she rented. At first, Allo said little about the case, but, after months of Dee's charade, he opened up and Dee had what she wanted, Allo's taped confession that he hadn't been entirely honest in the courtroom. In voir dire, the questioning of potential jurors before the trial, Allo never mentioned any connection to anyone in the case. But one night in the safe house, Allo said: "I'll tell you this, something I'd never tell anybody else. I had some type of information [about the case]." Then Allo went on to say that he hung out with guys who knew Dee's son, friends who told him prior to the trial that John Giuca was a "gang big shot." Allo further confided that he'd been the first on the jury to vote for a conviction.
"Technically, by law, I shouldn't have been on that jury," he admitted.
Will Allo's statements be enough to send the case back to a courtroom? The New York Times interviewed legal sources who say it's doubtful. In a piece by Manny Fernandez and Kareem Fahim, Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at NY University School of Law, discounted the importance of Allo's confession, saying New York courts have held that concealment by a juror is not "in and of itself" enough to overturn a conviction. A legal aid attorney named Steve Wasserman agreed, adding that "it is almost a given that some jurors will take a more dominant role than others" in a verdict.
So, it remains to be seen how successful Doreen's quest will ultimately prove. But what I want to know is: What do you think? Personally, I have to admit that in Doreen's situation, believing my kid is innocent, I would do whatever I could within the law to free him. What would you be willing to do for your kid? Would you be willing to take a leap like Doreen's, put yourself on the line to free a loved one? And what do you think the outcome in this case should be? Does John Giuca deserve a new trial?