Trial finally underway; attorneys await ruling on ballistics evidence

January 7, 2010
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The long-awaited trial of fallen Officer Daniel Talbot began Monday morning, and by Wednesday, a jury had been assembled to hear the case.

Judge Patrick Brady took his seat on the bench Monday in Boston’s Suffolk Superior Court around 9:30 a.m. just as accused shooter Robert Iacoviello Jr., 22, and accomplice James Heang, 20, were brought into the courtroom.

The room was packed with court officers. At most times, there were six officers stationed in the courtroom. Most of the time, only two are in a courtroom.

Iacoveillo’s parents sat in the audience, as well as a few witnesses that were called to testify in the case, and one Revere Police officer.

Iacoviello wore a black suit with a grey tie. Looking clean-cut and clean-shaven, he was soft-spoken and looked a little more humble than at his initial court appearances in 2007.

Heang also wore a suit and tie, sporting a goatee.

Right away, attorneys for both men began discussing the ground rules of the case with prosecutors and Judge Brady.

Attorney Peter Krupp, Iacoviello’s attorney, immediately asked that Iacoviello be allowed to plead guilty to a firearms charge that was unrelated to the murder.

When Iacoviello was arrested at his home in October 2007, he informed officers of an illegal firearm in his safe. Police recovered that firearm, which was not directly related to the murder case, and included it in his charges.

Wishing not to have that indictment read to the jury once the trial started, Krupp asked for the plea.

Judge Brady accepted the plea, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in the House of Corrections. A sentencing for that offense will come at a later date.

Once that was over, the matter of the murder trial began to be discussed.

After going over a number of questions to be asked of potential jurors, Judge Brady tackled what looks to be the first legal controversy of the case – just how crucial ballistics evidence will be viewed in the case.

Last February, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a report that indicated ballistics evidence and other criminal forensics sciences are often unreliable as key pieces of evidence.

The only exception, the report said, was DNA evidence.

Most importantly to this case, the report found that markings on bullets and shell casings are not unique, making it nearly impossible to prove that a certain bullet came from a certain gun.

Since that report, things have changed substantially in many courtrooms, and good defense attorneys like Krupp have challenged judges to consider the reports.

That is crucial in this case, as the prosecution – directed by Chief Homicide Attorney Ed Zabin – has rested heavily on pieces of a gun they found in sewers throughout Revere and then re-assembled.

Prosecutors have submitted ballistics evidence showing that their investigators matched the bullet that killed Talbot to the re-assembled gun. Through that, they have said that the re-assembled gun is the murder weapon.

Krupp has asked that he be allowed to bring in Professor Adina Schwartz from New York City’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice to discuss the reports and the accuracy of ballistics evidence in general and in this case.

Judge Brady said he was reluctant to go that far, but he did order that the State Police Forensics Lab send their technician, Sgt. Brian Canavan, to have a discussion about the ballistics evidence today, Wednesday, January 6.

“At the very least, I want to hear from Sgt. Canavan before I let him testify or before I make any rulings,” said the judge.

Finally, Judge Brady set the opening for the jury trial to begin on Thursday, and the trial is expected to last at least four weeks.

Trial Notebook

• Attorney Peter Krupp (Iacoviello) will be assisted by Attorney Sarah LaRoche during the trial, while Attorney Willie Davis (Heang) will be assisted by Robert Proctor.

• The prosecution will be conducted by Ed Zabin, chief of homicide for the Suffolk County DA, and Ed Krippendorfer.

• Jurors will start the trial on Thursday with a visit to Revere. They will do viewings of the ball fields behind Revere High, as well as locations on Cooledge Street, Adams Court and Cushman Avenue.

• It was revealed that Officer Talbot’s blood alcohol level at autopsy was .16, which is twice the legal limit for impairment.

• Prosecutor Zabin objected to the plea deal for Iacoviello for the unrelated firearms offenses, saying that they believe the illegal firearm was purchased from the same person as the alleged murder weapon.

• Before anything started, Attorney Krupp argued to sever Iacoviello’s case from Heang’s case, but Judge Brady quickly denied that.

• Saugus’s Michael Picardi continues to come up as a key element in the events of the case, though he has never been formally charged with any involvement. Picardi ignited a huge incident during the Columbus Day Parade in 2007 when he wore a shirt reading ‘Free Lodie’ as Revere Police marched by. Derek Lodie was the first suspect arrested and charged in connection with the Talbot murder.

• Iacoviello told the court at one point he worked for the Revere DPW for a summer job, as well as Stop & Shop. He is also a 2006 graduate of Revere High School.

• The prosecution provided new DNA evidence reports just prior to Christmas, although what was in those reports wasn’t discussed.

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