By Michael E. Miller
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The judge asked where New Times got the photographs. When informed that they were on file in the evidence room at the court clerk's office, he realized these were photos he himself had accepted into evidence four days earlier. Perry then modified his expression of doubt about having seen them before. "I don't want to say if I did or I didn't," he hedged, adding that his current court schedule had caused him to be tired.
The photographs easily could have been overlooked by Perry, considering the manner in which they were presented in court. Prosecutor Rosenberg submitted them to the judge as part of a packet of photos, including pictures of DiMaio's sneaker in the street, an aerial view of the block where the shooting occurred, and photographs of the burglary tools found inside the Jeep. (Rosenberg later told New Times he didn't draw attention to the photos depicting the bullet's trajectory because he didn't think they proved anything. The angle of the bullet was open to interpretation, he said, and if Judge Perry had wanted to know more, he could have asked.)
Did the photographs cast any doubt on Laura and George Russell's claims that she had to shoot? That she was standing directly in the van's path? "But she said she was," the judge answered with a confidence that suggested certainty.
Recalling from memory the inquest's testimony, Perry accurately noted that there had been no testimony whatsoever concerning the trajectory of the bullet through the windshield. The judge then surmised that if the State Attorney's Office had felt it important, prosecutor Rosenberg would have presented an expert witness to discuss the bullet's path.
Was it possible that officials from the State Attorney's Office chose not to call such an expert because they didn't want to contradict Laura and George Russell's statements? Judge Perry had no response.
If Laura Russell wasn't in the path of the van, and Andrew Morello wasn't about to run her down, then was it possible Russell shot Morello for some reason other than self-defense? Was it possible the shooting might not have been justified? Was it possible Russell was startled by Bjorn DiMaio suddenly jumping from the Jeep and the van's dome light coming on? Was it possible she squeezed the trigger in a moment of fright or panic? Perry's expression grew serious, but he remained silent.
Because these questions weren't even broached during the inquest, was it unreasonable for the Morello family to believe the hearing was unfairly slanted in favor of Laura Russell? Was it unreasonable to believe that the inquest was unfair to Anthony Vincent and Bjorn DiMaio, who have now been charged with murder? "I see what you're saying," Judge Perry answered slowly.
A few days prior to the inquest, Bjorn DiMaio sat in a friend's living room, fidgeting, nervous. He tapped a pen on the table, looked around, smiled, looked away. His friends say this is normal for DiMaio; "skitchy" is the way one friend described him. Skitchy or not, on this day he had good reason to be nervous. DiMaio knew the State Attorney's Office was considering filing murder charges against him. "I'm scared. I don't know why they would do that," he said. "It wasn't my fault it happened. I didn't do it. Nobody deserves to die over some speakers."
A gawky, immature youngster from a broken home, DiMaio has no record of violence, but he is familiar with crime. He broke into his first car when he was fourteen, he was good at it, it made him popular. "It's not the money," he explained. "I guess you could call it exciting, fun." He'd been arrested a couple of times, once for breaking into a Corvette, another time for trying to sneak into an amusement park without paying. His punishment had always been light - community-service programs. Now he was facing hard time. "I don't want to get locked up for twenty years for my best friend's death," he said. "I know I should get what I deserve for doing the burglary, but I don't think it's right that I get charged with any of that other stuff." (More than a week after murder charges were filed against him, DiMaio had not surrendered and police had not located him.)
Ralph Scocco wasn't facing murder charges. His agreement to testify at the inquest, and his peripheral involvement in the burglary, had led the State Attorney's Office to offer him immunity from prosecution. But he concurred with DiMaio that further charges seemed unfair. And he added that no one seemed to remember that he, DiMaio, and Vincent will forever have to live with the horror of that night. "It was hard to watch him die," Scocco said through tears.
The shooting and the consequences of the inquest have affected the families as well. Hours after Anthony Vincent was booked on murder charges, his mother anxiously waited in line at the Dade County Jail to post her son's $25,000 bond. Wiping tears from her face and visibly trembling from fear and anger, she said, "You don't want to hear what I have to say about the media and the justice system."