The Gun Range Death of Christopher Bizilj
The Case Against Edward Fleury
Testimony in the case against Edward Fleury began on January 4, 2011, in the Hampden County Hall of Justice in Springfield, Mass. For the 53-year-old Fleury, his life was at stake: If convicted of the involuntary manslaughter charge as well as the three counts of furnishing a machine gun to a person under eighteen years of age, he faced a maximum of 50 years in prison.
The facts of the case were simple and basically uncontested. Prosecutor William Bennett argued that it is illegal to furnish minors with machine guns and that Fleury planned and sponsored the Machine Gun Shoot to do just that. The "wanton and reckless conduct" necessary to prove involuntary manslaughter was Fleury's carrying out an event that put a Micro Uzi into the hands of an eight-year-old boy. Bennett freely admits the killing was unintentional and that the defendant is not solely to blame for it. However, he told the jury, the trial is not a contest between father and defendant for who had the worse judgment. This was a case in which Fleury, in defiance of the Massachusetts law, contracted with others in order to profit from young people shooting machine guns.
Fleury's flyer exclaimed that there was no age limit and that all the activities of the event were legal. And it was that false promise, Bennett maintained, that convinced the Bizilj family to attend the gun show. The flyer also said a licensed instructor would accompany shooters at all times and yet Christopher Bizilj was assisted by unlicensed Michael Spano. In Bennett's words, this was "putting the life of a child in the hands of a child."
The most dramatic moment of the trial came in the prosecution's case when Dr. Charles Bizilj took the stand and the terrifying videotape of Christopher's death was played for the jury. Dr. Bizilj looked down at his lap as the monitors replayed the shooting. When the fatal bullet struck, a surprised gasp was heard from the jury box.