A retired NYPD detective lied to keep accused “Grid Kid Killer” John Giuca behind bars, defense attorneys claim in a new letter.
Retired Detective Thomas Byrnes testified in a 2015 hearing that he’d first met jailhouse snitch John Avitto — whose testimony helped put Giuca away for the 2003 murder of college football star Mark Fisher– while Avitto was living at a drug rehab program.
But a year earlier, Byrnes told prosecutors with Brooklyn’s Conviction Review Unit that he’d only ever met Avitto at the DA’s office, lawyer Mark Bederow writes.
Bederow claims the DA’s office was wholly aware of the contradictory statements but kept them from his client — and had Byrnes trot out the story most convenient for prosecutors during hearings into whether Giuca should get a new trial.
Giuca’s conviction was overturned earlier this year by an appellate court, and he’s due back in court Thursday as he awaits retrial in Fisher’s murder.
Byrnes perjured himself “with the blessing or acquiescence” of top prosecutor Ken Taub — meeting with Taub only a week before he took the stand in Giuca’s 2015 hearings, claims Bederow.
“Taub was an experienced prosecutor and Chief of the homicide bureau,” the letter reads. “At the very least, he was obligated to disclose to the court and Giuca the material contradictions between Byrnes’ testimony and his prior statement to the CRU. Instead, Taub sat silently, misled the Court and unfairly deprived Giuca of the opportunity to expose Byrnes’ obvious credibility problem.”
Avitto also took the stand during Giuca’s wrongful conviction hearings, recanting testimony he’d given in 2005 that he heard Giuca implicate himself in Fisher’s murder.
At trial, Avitto testified he heard an older man during a Rikers Island visit ask Giuca, “Why’d you have the gun?” and Giuca said, “I just had it.”
The testimony played a central role in trial prosecutor Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi’s case — but in November 2015 Avitto proclaimed he “made it up.”
“We will review the letter,” a spokesman with the Brooklyn DA’s office said.