Monday, December 15, 2008

All's Fair in Crime and Punishment?

by Kathryn Casey

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?

For those of you unfamiliar with the case, Doreen is the mother of John Giuca, 25 (photo below, right). After he was convicted of murder, she started a Web site to argue his innocence. Then she investigated her son's jurors. Her goal: to find any juror misconduct that could win her kid a new trial and another shot at an acquittal. In the end, Doreen found her juror, but what's not certain is if she has enough on his tape-recorded confessions to spring son John out of prison.

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?

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting case. What would I do? I didn't raise my kids to hurt anyone, so if they did, I'd let them rot in jail. That's what I'd do.

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog, Kathryn.

I agree with anonymous above. I wouldn't try to save my children from a just punishment if they committed such a crime. I would still love them, visit them and write to them. Help them avoid justice? No way.

Parents like Doreen are enablers, and their children will continue to do wrong because they know that Mommy will bail them out.

A Voice of Sanity said...

I suggest these posters ('Anonymous') read Murphy’s Law of Investigation (LINK) and ask themselves why they care so little for their children that they would accept their conviction knowing they were innocent?

FleaStiff said...

Who snuck into the home in the dead of night and stole that yellow blanket?

Anonymous said...

Based on a belief that my kid wasn't guilty, I'd do everything I could to prove it. The truth is though thatafter reading the Vanity Fair article, I think this John kid is guilty. Otherwise, why wouldn't Doreen's son or the other kid talk? It sounds like some kind of gang code.

Anonymous said...

VoS: I am the second anonymous. If I knew my child was innocent I wouldn't abandon them. I never said that I would. What I wouldn't do is bail them out of a situation they put themselves into. I care enough about my children not to become an enabler for them, thinking that Mom is going to come to their rescue when they screw up. How you got that I care so little for my children out of my post is beyond me. I care a great deal for both my children. It is apparent in the fact that I was there for them growing up, and now they are good citizens who don't go out looking for trouble.

TLTL said...

VOS you obviously don't have any children.

Leap of Faith said...

Other than her deception being unethical, I suppose there are some that see her behavior as heroic. I would say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. And Allo may have been tainted, but he also told her he had some inside skinny that her kid was guilty. I doubt a second trial will find him any less guilty.

TLTL said...

Why is her deception unethical? I can see where his deception is unethical, lying during voir dire. If he had been honest, no doubt he would have been struck. Not that that would have changed the outcome of the trial, but he flat lied so he could be a juror and possibly influenced other jurors decidions. IMHO Giuca deserves another trial with jurors who aren't tainted, guilty or not.

I would do anything for my son, except deny him the privlidge of taking responsibility for his actions.

Kathryn Casey said...

Really interesting responses, and it's hard to totally disagree with any of them. This is a tough issue, one, I know, that all too many families face when they have a loved one convicted of a crime. Do they believe him or her? Do they accept the verdict? Can they change the outcome?

Guess we'll have to hang in there and see if John Giuca gets the new trial his mother worked so hard to secure for him. And, of course, there will undoubtedly be the Lifetime movie on the case to look forward to. If not Sharon Stone perhaps Glenn Close as Doreen?

Leap of faith said...

Deception is unethical be it the lying mother or the lying juror.

A Voice of Sanity said...

The juror is under oath - the mother is not.

Compassrose said...

So you have to take an oath to be ethical? Kind of defies the meaning of ethics.

A Voice of Sanity said...

The juror committed a crime if the facts are as they appear. The mother committed no crime and no breach of ethics, since, if what she did was unethical, almost every date on the planet is unethical.

Compassrose said...

Ahhh, there lies the slippery slope for all societies -- the justification for deceitful or bad behaviors because other people do it or it serves some need. Ethical choices are based on doing the right thing because they are the right thing to do and not becuase a law tells us we must.

Anonymous said...

If all deception is wrong, what about police officers who work undercover on cases? Is that wrong? Isn't that basically what this woman did, without the badge?

Anon said...

As far as I know the juror committed perjury during voir dire if he stated that he knew nothing of the case or the individuals involved in the case. He blatently lied. That is far worse than unethical. Even so, I don't believe that the mother was unethical in the way she obtained her info regarding the TAINTED JUROR. I applaud her for going to such lengths and being successful in her endeavor.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Giuca is guilty, he lawyered up and hid the murder weapon. His mother is in denial. I recently have been following this case, and the complete disregard of Mark Fisher by the Giuca camp is disgraceful. All they offer is the same tired platitude "My heart goes out to the Fisher family." I doubt it very much.
If Mr. Guica is innocent (that has nothing to do with a so-called rogue juror,) they haven't come up with a believable theory or credible new evidence to get his convicted overturned."