After six full days of deliberations, the jury charged with meting out justice in the murder of Ryan Morrissey, and the shooting of James Lawton, threw the entire courtroom a curveball no one expected.
The freed the two accused gunmen, Danilo and Alexander Soto (not related), and convicted the getaway driver, Julio Baez. All three were charged with first-degree murder under joint venture.
Family members for Morrissey and Lawton were distraught after the verdict, feeling robbed of justice. They chose not to comment on that matter publicly, but their grief over the split conviction decision was visible.
The courtroom was packed for the noontime reading of the verdict, so much so that many friends, family and Boston media members could not even get access to the courtroom.
“No verdict can bring Ryan Morrissey back or undo the harm his friend suffered that night, but this jury brought some measure of justice for both,” DA Dan Conley said afterward. “For the community at large, this case took a dangerously violent individual off of Boston’s streets.”
Outside the courthouse, Attorney John Amabile – who represented Baez – was visibly shaken and shocked. A veteran attorney, he had to muster up his thoughts for the press only after a long pause and quite a bit of contemplation.
“My client has always asserted his innocence and plans to appeal,” he said. “He and his family are devastated by the outcome.”
Beside him, members of the Baez family wept loudly, yelling in Spanish, “He did nothing!”
To a person, most observers of the trial had believed before the verdict that it might go down the complete opposite – that Baez might be acquitted and the accused shooters would be convicted. That’s why many considered it a surprise.
Baez was convicted of first-degree murder by joint venture, armed assault with intent to murder, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury.
Lawyers for the Sotos, Steven Sack and William White Jr., did not return calls and e-mails from the Patriot-Bridge seeking comment on the acquittal of their clients.
The trial began on January 24, and evidence and testimony was given for nearly two solid weeks. While the DA’s office contended the evidence was strong and the case was strong enough for a conviction, one of the wild cards in the case were the witnesses – the two men and one woman that were the supposed targets of the shooting.
Morrissey and Lawton were described as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, standing where the three supposed targets had been standing moments before the shooting took place.
The evidence established that Baez was a knowing participant in executing the fatal encounter, but prosecutors believe witnesses who could have provided critical testimony opted to lie or remain silent instead. As a result, jurors never heard the full truth of what happened that night.
“We believe the totality of the evidence supported each and every charge, even without certain testimony that would have been valuable,” Conley said. “We’re disappointed with parts of the verdict, but we respect the jury’s hard work over almost an entire week to reach it. Our concern right now is for the Morrissey family and the grief, as raw now as ever, they’re still confronting.”
The court sentenced Baez on Friday, Feb. 16, and the Sotos were freed after the verdict.