An appellate court Wednesday unanimously overturned the 2005 conviction of John Giuca, who is serving up to life in prison for the slaying of New Jersey college football star Mark Fisher.
The now-34-year-old so-called “Grid Kid” killer from Brooklyn has been behind bars for more than 10 years.
The panel found that the trial prosecutor erred in not alerting jurors on the original case that jailhouse snitch John Avitto — whose testimony was integral in putting Giuca away — had received special treatment from the Brooklyn DA’s Office in exchange for his testimony.
“While the evidence presented at the hearing did not demonstrate ‘the existence of an express promise’ between Avitto and the District Attorney’s office, there was ‘nonetheless a strong inference’ of an expectation of a benefit ‘which should have been presented to the jury for its consideration,’ ” the judges wrote in their decision.
Fisher’s body was found shot and wrapped in a sheet Oct. 12, 2003, blocks from Giuca’s South Slope home. He was 19 years old.
Lead prosecutor Anna Sigga Nicolazzi — who has since moved on to star in her own crime show “True Conviction,” where she touts her perfect trial record — had told the jury that convicted Giuca that the defendant was the head of a wannabe gang called the “Ghetto Mafia” and had ordered the hit on Fisher to make their budding cadre more legitimate.
It was also suggested that handsome football star Fisher had somehow offended Giuca by sitting on his coffee table and chatting up some girls during a party.
Following a series of 2015 and 2016 special hearings in which a judge re-examined the case at the behest of the defense, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun declined to reverse the guilty verdict, saying defense lawyer Mark Bederow had failed to substantiate past claims of prosecutorial misconduct.
During one of those hearings, in 2015, Avitto told the court he’d lied during Giuca’s original slay trial.
“I fabricated a story for my benefit,” Avitto testified, explaining that he had been lying when he told jurors during the 2005 case that he had overheard a conversation between Giuca and his father while jailed at Rikers Island.
Avitto alleged at the time that he had heard the older man ask Giuca, “Why’d you have the gun?” and Giuca said, “I just had it.”
Bederow lauded the appellate decision.
“The opinion is unanimous, and the opinion is strong: the Second Department [of appeals] will not tolerate the prosecution’s use of false testimony and non-disclosure of tacit benefits,” the lawyer said in a statement following the ruling. “We are thrilled with today’s decision and have every expectation that John will be home soon.”
“Our next order of business will be to get John back to Brooklyn and before the court to begin the process of ending this case,” he added, saying he intends to try and get his client out on bail pending a possible retrial.
Giuca will remain behind bars for now.
“We will review the decision and weigh our options,” a spokesman from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said in a statement, referring to a possible retrial.
In 2014, the Brooklyn DA’s Conviction Review Unit had investigated the case and Giuca’s conviction after Bederow claimed his client had been convicted on phony evidence. The CRU declined to seek a verdict reversal in January 2015.
Fisher’s parents, Michael and Nancy, did not return a message seeking comment.