Judge refuses to grant new trial to Frank DiBenedetto, convicted in 1986 North End double murder
A Superior Court judge refused to grant a new trial for a Boston man convicted of participating in a notorious double murder in the North End in 1986, ruling that the absence of the murder victims’ blood on the defendant’s sneakers does not prove his innocence.
Frank DiBenedetto’s sneakers had traces of blood on them when he was arrested by police shortly after the slayings. But he asserted that recent DNA testing has shown that the blood did not belong to either of the two men shot to death in Slye Park on Feb. 19, 1986.
DiBenedetto argued that since Suffolk prosecutors had suggested to jurors that the blood evidence linked him to the execution-style murders, he should get a new trial.
But Judge Robert A. Mulligan, who is now chief justice for administration and management, wrote in 27-page ruling today that DiBenedetto’s claims are “naught but gossamer inferences and speculation’’ and do not warrant a new trial.
Mulligan presided at the 1994 trial where DiBenedetto and a second man, Louis Costa, were both convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. They were found guilty of killing Frank Chiuchiolo, 20, and Joseph Bottari, 23, each of whom was shot multiple times in the head in what prosecutors have called drug-related killings.
In his ruling, Mulligan said he was drawing on that experience and in particular, the testimony of the key government witness, lawyer Joseph Schindler, whose apartment overlooked the park and who identified DiBenedetto and Costa during numerous court proceedings in the 1980s and 1990s.
“Schindler’s testimony alone could have proven, and I find likely did prove to a jury at trial, the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,’’ Mulligan wrote.
He noted that the sneakers were seized when DiBenedetto was arrested four days after the killings and that four-day gap “provided the defendant more than ample time to discard or destroy possibly incriminating evidence.’’
Costa’s attorney, Paul F. Ware, is to appear before a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court Tuesday and ask that Mulligan be removed from ruling on a motion for a new trial filed by Ware that relies heavily on the DNA testing.
In a statement, Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, whose office inherited the case, applauded Mulligan’s decision. DiBenedetto and Costa were first convicted of the crimes in 1988, and then convicted again during a 1994 retrial, Conley noted.
“The first jury got it right in 1988, the second jury got it right in 1994, and Judge Mulligan got it right in this decision,” Conley said. “The evidence against these defendants was and remains overwhelming, and the depth and breadth of analysis in these findings makes that inescapably clear.”John R. Ellement can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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