Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Gun Range Death of Christopher Bizilj

The Defense

 

Defense attorney Rosemary Scapicchio believed her client was being wrongly persecuted for a terrible accident that was not foreseeable and not caused by any wanton or reckless conduct by Edward Fleury. As she pointed out to the jury many times, Fleury had held this event for six years prior without any incident. Fleury did not try to hide what was going on and, in fact, widely disseminated the information through his flyers. He always made sure to alert local police beforehand. If letting minors shoot machine guns at a gun show was an illegal act, Fleury surely didn't know that because he'd been doing it for quite some time. That various members of law enforcement attended the event underscored the idea that there was no reason Fleury thought he was running an illegal enterprise.

Rosemary Scapicchio
Rosemary Scapicchio

Scapicchio pointed to the various levels of safety at the event; this was not a situation where machine guns were lying in the open for children to pick up. There was a strict system in place in which trained instructors handed the guns to attendees in a controlled environment. The fact that the Biziljs were helped by an unlicensed 15-year-old, Scapicchio maintained, was the responsibility of Domenico Spano and Carl Giuffre, who oversaw the firing range at the show. Fleury never handed guns to anyone, but trusted the range officers, line officers, and most of all, the parents of minors to make sure that guns were handled safely and not provided to anyone unable to handle them. How was Fleury to know, Scapicchio asked the jury, that Dr. Bizilj would ignore the line officer's advice and insist on having his son shooting a fully-automatic weapon he could not control?

To find Fleury guilty of manslaughter, she said, would be analogous to hurting oneself with a lawnmower and then going after Wal-Mart for selling the lawnmower in the first place, or holding a liquor distributor liable because a bar-owner serves alcohol to under-age drinkers.

As for the furnishing counts, Scapicchio pointed to Massachusetts' "temporary holding" law, which allows unlicensed people to shoot "firearms" if they are with a licensed instructor. The Director of the Firearms Records Bureau testified at trial that some machine guns could be classified as "firearms" if their barrel length was less than 16 inches as the Micro Uzi's was. That same witness also said that a "machine gun is always a machine gun" and thus not covered by the "temporary holding" statute, but Scapicchio glided over that comment.

At the end of the prosecution's case, the defense felt so confident in its argument and cross-examinations of prosecution witnesses that they declined to argue a case of its own. Edward Fleury would not take the stand in his own defense: He would leave his fate to the common sense of the jury.

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