Battle of the Lawyers | Video Transcript
DAVID YANNETTI: I think it’s rare, when a client is looking for an attorney, to actually be able to see that attorney in a courtroom-like setting doing what the attorney is ultimately going to do for the client.
In my case, I was asked in late 2008 by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly to participate in an event that’s called the Battle of the Lawyers which is sort of a forum for attorneys to recreate famous or infamous closing arguments that they’ve done over the course of their careers. And it’s a competition. It’s for charity. And I was honored to be selected to participate.
In 2008, I recreated a closing argument that I had done back in 1998, when I was a prosecutor — the murder of a 10-year-old little boy in Cambridge, a case I prosecuted way back when. So the footage that you are about to see is my recreated closing argument — again, done ten years later.
And also, of course, it’s a prosecution closing because back then I was a prosecutor. But what my clients need to know is that I bring the same passion, the same intensity, the same emotion and preparation to my cases as a criminal defense attorney, and in fact, this is me in 2008 when I am a criminal defense attorney. So you can get some sort of sense as to how I am in a courtroom.
MALE VOICE: On the afternoon of October 1st, 1997, 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley told his grandmother, I have to do something, I’ll be back in a little while. His grandmother would be the last one to see him alive. Within the next few days, the investigation into Curley’s disappearance turned towards two men, Salvatore Sicari, who was Curley’s neighbor and a man named Charles Jaynes. Sicari eventually confessed to a role in Curley’s murder. It was a lurid tale of the young boy being molested before he was killed.
Sicari pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping and first degree murder. He maintained that it was Jaynes, a self-admitted pedophile who killed Curley. Sicari claimed he in no way cooperated with Jaynes or shared any intent.
[GRAPHIC: David R. Yannetti The Jeffrey Curley Murder Case]
MALE VOICE: But prosecutor David Yannetti argued that it didn’t matter which man physically performed the kidnapping and the murder, even if it was Jaynes who actually kidnapped and murdered Curley, Yannetti stressed, Sicari was equally culpable because he intended to commit the crimes and assisted Jaynes in carrying them out. We’ll now hear David Yannetti’s closing. Counselor, your closing argument please.
DAVID YANNETTI: Thank you, Your Honor. May it please the Court, ladies and gentlemen, over the course of the last two weeks, you’ve heard from 60 witnesses, over 200 exhibits. You’ve listened to a lot of testimony, much of it technical, all of it important.
But I suggest to you, despite the length of this trial and the number of witnesses and the number of exhibits, this is a very simple case. When you boil it down, this case comes down to the fact that 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley left Cambridge one afternoon and he never came home. He never came home because two men killed him. And they killed him because he would not do what they wanted him to do. Jeffrey Curley said no. Jeffrey Curley resisted. Jeffrey Curley fought and for that he had to die. That’s why we’re here today. That’s what this case is about.
Now, there are a couple of ways to look at this case really. Twelve of you will do that when you retire to that jury room and you evaluate the evidence and you come to a true and just verdict in this case. And I suggest to you there are really two ways to look at this case. You can either believe the words of Salvatore Sicari in his final version of a statement that he gave to the police after 18 hours of lies. You can either believe his statement or you could disbelieve the words of Salvatore Sicari. But I suggest to you that whether you believe his final version of a statement to the police or whether you disbelieve it, he is guilty of murder in the first degree.
Let’s look at his statement. Let’s take his words at face value and let’s assume that he’s telling us the truth. If that’s true, then Salvatore Sicari is guilty of murder in the first degree as a joint venturer. Now Justice Cowin will instruct you on the law of joint venture and I suggest to you all three elements are present in this case.
The first element — being present at the scene of a crime, that’s a no-brainer. Salvatore Sicari tells the police, trying to shift blame away from himself and onto his friend, Charles Jaynes, he still tells the police he was present for this murder.
The second element — sharing the intent for the crime. Well, he doesn’t use those words, he doesn’t say “I shared the intent for the crime.” But he tells you what he did that day and that tells you that he indeed did share the intent for the crime.
Do you recall his words? He told the police that when he showed up in the neighborhood in Charles Jaynes’ car, as they had been doing for months, as they were spending time with this boy, and befriending him and seducing him, taking him to restaurants and buying him toys and promising him a bike and so forth and so on. This day, however, when they showed up in that neighborhood and they see Jeffrey Curley leaving his grandmother’s house, running to their car to be with his two pals, Salvatore Sicari tells the police that he ducked down in the car. He ducked down. He didn’t want anybody to see him.
Now, if this were an innocent excursion like all the others, if he had no idea what was to happen later that day, why is he ducking down? For what reason? It’s obvious isn’t it? He’s telling the police, he’s telling you, he knew exactly what was going to happen that day. This was the big day where the seduction was going to pay off and he wasn’t going to let anybody see him in that car. He knew what was going to happen. He shared the intent for that crime and that second element of joint venture is satisfied.
And the third element of joint venture, again if you believe his words, participation in the crime. Well, do you recall what Salvatore Sicari told the police, again in this final version where he’s putting himself in the best light possible? He said that when Charles Jaynes was dragging this poor boy into the back seat of that car, what did he do? Did he call the police? “Oh my god, there’s this 300-pound monster dragging a boy in the back seat of the car!” No. Did he yell for help? “Please anyone, stop this man!” No. Did he go up to Charlie, his pal, and say, “hey what are doing? This isn’t what we talked about, what are you . . . get off him!” No. Did he grab him and throw him off him and say stop? No. Did he do nothing, as his attorney argues today; was he merely present while the murder was taking place? No.
He told the police that he quickly ran around the car and closed all the car doors and then got in the driver’s seat and took off so that Charlie wouldn’t get caught. And then as they’re driving along the road, he looks in his rearview mirror and he thinks he sees the boy’s arm go up in a struggle and he thinks he sees a cruiser behind him. He punches the gas to get out of there so that Charlie could finish the job.
If you believe Salvatore Sicari’s own words, he is guilty of murder in the first degree by joint venture. But folks, you are not required to believe his words. You are entitled to reject those words and you are entitled to look at the evidence in this case for the answers that you will need.
The evidence in this case tells you something quite different, does it not? It took Salvatore Sicari 18 hours to come up with this final version of events, putting himself in the best light possible, shifting blame to the 300-pound monster (according to his attorney, he didn’t call him that day. That day he called him friend). But it didn’t take Salvatore Sicari 18 hours to tell his girlfriend what had happened.
He and Jaynes went to that Home Depot and they bought the concrete and the lime and the Rubbermaid container, everything they would need to dispose of this poor 10-year-old boy’s body. And after they put Jeffrey’s lifeless body into that container and filled it with concrete and took it to the Great Works River and pushed it over the bridge and it splashed in the river and Jeffrey Curley’s body sank to the bottom of that river. Sicari’s on the phone to his girlfriend. He doesn’t tell her everything but he tells her all you need to know. “I just hurt somebody really bad.” I just hurt somebody really bad. What else do you need to know? The evidence in this case tells you what Salvatore Sicari did.
I suggest to you on October 1st of 1997, this was indeed a big day for Salvatore Sicari and Charles Jaynes. This was the day when the seduction was going to pay off. All of the dinners and the toys . . . we’re going to buy him a bike today and then we’re going to have our way with him. But something went wrong. Something they didn’t count on. This 10-year-old boy said no. He refused. He fought with every ounce of energy that his 10-year-old body could muster. He fought them and for that he had to die. They decided to kill him.
They decided it and then they acted upon that decision by forcing him to inhale gasoline vapors from a gasoline-soaked rag. That ladies and gentlemen, is premeditation. Making the decision and acting upon the decision. And that’s what Salvatore Sicari did. That is what those two men did. That is one theory of first degree murder and it is present in this case, but it is not the only one.
Judge Cowin will instruct you that there is another theory called extreme atrocity or extreme cruelty. You will make this decision. When you do, realize that you are the conscience of this community. You decide whether their behavior was extremely atrocious or extremely cruel. And to do this ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry, it is uncomfortable. Nobody wants to think about this but you must. You must think about he way that Jeffrey Curley died.
This was a big day for Jeffrey Curley as well. Imagine his horror when his friend Charlie and Sal are pulling him into the back seat of that vehicle. It is uncomfortable but you must look at those autopsy photos. And again, I apologize for introducing those. Nobody should have to look at those photos. It is unnatural. But you must because that is your job.
You saw in those autopsy photos that Jeffrey Curley had red burn marks on his forehead, his eye, his cheek, his chin, his neck. What does that tell you? That tells you exactly what Jeffrey Curley did and it tells you the fight that this 10-year-old boy put up against these two men. They tried to smother him with that gasoline-soaked rag and Jeffrey Curley fought and they couldn’t get it on his nose and his mouth. And it was going on his eye and his forehead and his chin and his cheek and his neck.
Imagine the horror that he’s feeling, the betrayal, the pain, the burns. But the worst was yet to come. Because it was inevitable that they would overpower him and overpower him they did. They got that rag over his nose and his mouth. And you heard the testimony of the medical examiner. That would have immediately caused him problems in breathing. And Jeffrey Curley would have panicked. Panicked. Why are Charlie and Sal doing this to me? My god, it hurts.
And then the gas would have been transported to his heart and it would have caused an irregular beating in his heart. And he would have known it and he would have felt it and he would have panicked even more. Ultimately the arrhythmia in his heart, according to the medical examiner, would have worsened the fluid in his lungs and it would have felt to Jeffrey Curley as if he were drowning. He did all he could but it was inevitable and Jeffrey Curley died. That was the manner in which he died.
And when you consider whether he died in an extremely atrocious or extremely cruel manner, you may consider Salvatore Sicari’s and Charles Jaynes’ indifference to his suffering. You saw them on that Home Depot video. They may as well have been at Stop N’ Shop. Buying a Rubbermaid container with concrete and lime.
And you know something else because the receipt was found by the police in the excellent investigation they did of this case. That receipt told you everything you needed to know about Salvatore Sicari’s feelings toward this 10-year-old boy as he lay in the trunk of their vehicle. That receipt reflected that they stopped at that Osco Drug and they purchased two cigars for the ride to Jaynes’ apartment, to smoke along the way while the lifeless body of Jeffrey Curley lies in their trunk.
Ladies and gentlemen, both theories of first degree murder are present in this case. The evidence screams extreme atrocity or extreme cruelty at you. I ask you to find Mr. Sicari guilty of murder in the first degree and nothing less.
MALE VOICE: Thank you. In that case, of course, Sicari was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Thank you so much David for sharing that masterful closing with us. Thanks again.
FEMALE VOICE: This goes to David Yannetti. Yes, David.
MALE VOICE: Why don’t you hand it to him?
FEMALE VOICE: Dave, congratulations, wonderful.
MALE VOICE: Take a look at the camera one more time.