Our View: Imperfect justice

Published: Thursday, April 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

More than 123 months after the disappearance of Brian Carrick, a McHenry County jury this week held someone accountable for his presumed death.

After about seven hours of deliberations Tuesday, the 12-person jury voted unanimously to convict Mario Casciaro of Carrick’s first-degree murder.

While we’d like to say that this conviction wraps up this case nicely, that justice has been served, and that the Carrick family now can move on knowing that the individual responsible for their loved one’s death will be justly punished for his crime, it’s not as simple as that.

Prosecutors are fond of saying they can’t pick their witnesses. In this case, they did pick their witness, and it’s a decision that will be questioned for a lifetime.

To bring to justice the person they say is most responsible for Carrick’s death, prosecutors made a deal with the man who has admitted to being the one who actually hit, and possibly killed, Carrick.

Shane Lamb testified in two trials – the first ended in a hung jury – that he punched Carrick inside the produce cooler of Val’s Foods in Johnsburg on Dec. 20, 2002. The punch came after Casciaro sent Lamb to talk to Carrick about a drug debt.

Casciaro was in Val’s that night, according to Lamb’s testimony. Lamb said he left after Carrick fell down, and he does not know what Casciaro did or did not do with Carrick’s body, which has not been found.

Despite his admission, Lamb will not be punished in Carrick’s death. Prosecutors granted him full immunity for his testimony against Casciaro.

Did the state’s attorney’s office make the right decision?

We struggle to answer that question. By his own admission, Lamb certainly has some culpability.

But we also acknowledge prosecutors’ dilemma.

Without Lamb’s testimony, they had no chance of a conviction against Casciaro. And Lamb never would have put the pieces together for prosecutors without that immunity deal.

In the end, a jury found that there was enough evidence to convict Casciaro of first-degree murder. While an appeal of the conviction is a certainty, unless a higher court overturns the verdict, it’s the resolution we have.

Sometimes, justice isn’t perfect.

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