A huge update in a case we've followed very closely here at Crime Watch Daily, a big story in New York City: John Giuca will finally get the new trial he's been waiting more than 10 years for.
At last, after nearly 15 years behind bars, a sensational courtroom victory for the so-called "Grid Kid Killer," John Giuca.
An appeals court overturned his controversial murder conviction.
"The case against him has been reduced to rubble," said attorney Mark Bederow.
I actually grew up in Brooklyn with Giuca and was reunited with him in an exclusive prison interview when Crime Watch Daily began investigating charges that he got a bum rap.
"Every day when I wake up and look at the bars, I still can't believe that -- it's so hard to be an innocent man in prison. It's hell, it's a nightmare. Every day is a nightmare," Giuca told Crime Watch Daily.
It's a nightmare that began with what was supposed to be a night of fun.
"I'm in prison because I had a party, really," said Giuca.
And Giuca has relived what went wrong ever since.
"There's so many nights, I go back and I think, 'If I just wouldn't have had a party that night, I wouldn't be here," said Giuca.
There were about 15 guests at the party at John Giuca's Brooklyn home while his parents were out of town. Most of them were a close group of neighborhood friends who called themselves "The Ghetto Mafia."
But one of them was a stranger named Mark Fisher, who accompanied a college classmate named Angel DiPietro. Several hours after the party ended, Fisher, a strapping football star, was found lying dead in a driveway three blocks away at 6:40 a.m. with five bullets in his face and chest.
Did you murder Mark Fisher?
"No," said Giuca. "I had nothing to do with this crime. I did not murder Mark Fisher. All I did was have a party that night, and now I'm in prison for 25 to life for something I didn't do."
Giuca claims he was at home asleep at the time of the murder and that the last time he saw Fisher was when he gave him a blanket and let him sleep on a couch.
"I had nothing to do with his death," said Giuca.
But the prosecution convinced a jury that he had given a gun to fellow Ghetto Mafia member Antonio Russo and ordered him to rob and execute Fisher.
A judge sentenced both men to 25 years to life in prison, leaving Giuca desperately trying to prove his innocence from behind bars for the past 13 years.
"Four people testified against me. Three of them recanted their statements and now admit that they lied and were coerced and threatened into lying," said Giuca. "And the other person is thoroughly discredited."
It's one of those powerful recantations that finally gives John Giuca new hope of being set free.
It was the recantation of John Avitto, who admitted on the stand in court that he lied in the original trial.
"He did lie on the stand during the trial, which basically convicted John Giuca," said private investigator Jay Salpeter.
Avitto, a career criminal, had originally testified that he'd heard Giuca confess to ordering the execution of Mark Fisher while Giuca was behind bars awaiting trial. Now Avitto is changing his story. He was on the stand again, this time to admit he made it up and cut a deal with the District Attorney to reduce a seven-year prison sentence that he was facing.
"The District Attorney offered him his 'get out of jail card,' and he played them like a professional card player," said Salpeter.
Private eye Jay Salpeter, a former New York cop, is the one who'd persuaded Avitto to recant.
Avitto addressed Giuca directly.
"I apologize. Deeply sorry," Avitto said to Giuca.
"He wanted to make amends for his life for doing something wrong, and he wanted to bring John Giuca home," said Salpeter.
And largely on the strength of Avitto's new testimony and evidence of prosecutorial misconduct by the Brooklyn D.A., a court has now unanimously overturned Giuca's conviction, ruling the D.A.'s office knew Avitto's original testimony was false, and withheld evidence from his trial.
"That whole thing was a lie and the District Attorney's office had to know that," said Salpeter.
But Giuca's courtroom triumph was dampened when the prosecution said it would appeal the decision and is assessing whether to retry him. With that, Giuca was taken back behind bars. Giuca's mother Doreen is devastated,
"I'm very disappointed, I'm very heartbroken," Doreen said.
Doreen has devoted her life to freeing her son.
"I realized that I had to take matters into my own hands," Doreen told Crime Watch Daily.
Doreen actually transformed herself into a femme fatale to try to bust an allegedly crooked juror who had helped send Giuca to prison.
"I befriended him one October evening riding a bicycle in short-shorts, in high heels, riding a bicycle. His friend whistled at me, and I pulled over and I befriended him," said Doreen.
For the next three months, Doreen posed as a woman from California, and with a tape recorder hidden in her low-cut blouses, Giuca's mom got the juror to admit he'd helped railroad her son.
This is an awkward question for me to ask. Did you ever sleep with Allo?
"I didn't, but would I have? You know, Jason, if I had to, yeah, I would have," Doreen tells Crime Watch Daily. "That should have been the question. 'What will you do for your son?' For the truth? Yes."
A judge ultimately ruled that taped confession inadmissible in court. But her courage gave Giuca the inspiration to keep the faith.
"What she did was amazing. I'll be honest with you: I cried," said Giuca. "I was so happy just to have her in my life."
Now John Giuca just has one more hurdle standing between him and freedom: a looming retrial.
What are you going to tell John?
"Just stay strong. You're gonna come home some day," said Doreen.
Currently, Giuca's possible new trail is tentatively scheduled to begin on May 1, 2018. Crime Watch Daily will of course bring you the very latest.