Justice denies appeals of two men convicted in North End double murder

A justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has denied appeals by two men convicted of a double murder in the North End more than 25 years ago.

Louis Costa and Frank DiBenedetto, the convicted murderers hoping for a new trial, claimed that newly discovered DNA evidence would prove their innocence in the 1986 murders of Joseph Bottari and Frank Chiuchiolo.

But Justice Barbara Lenk denied the appeals, saying in her decision released Friday that the evidence “was of marginal relevance” and “would have made no difference in the outcome.”

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The DNA evidence, recovered from DiBenedetto’s shoes at the time of arrest, did not match the DNA of either murder victim. The defendants claimed the evidence proved they weren’t guilty. Prosecutors disagreed. They pointed to ample witness testimony and raised the possibility the shoes were not worn by DiBenedetto on the night of the fatal shootings.

“We have a solemn duty to follow the evidence wherever it leads, but the evidence in this case points only and inexorably to the defendants’ guilt,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley in a statement.

Conley said the murders, which occurred in Slye Park in Boston, were witnessed by two separate and independent witnesses who identified the suspects, and that the evidence clearly proved Costa and DiBenedetto guilty.

“The defendant bears the burden of proving that the evidence alleged to be newly discovered ‘casts real doubt on the justice of the conviction,’” wrote Suffolk Superior Court Judge Robert Mulligan, in denying the defendants’ motion for a new trial in 2009. “The defendant here, relying upon naught but gossamer inferences and speculation, has failed to meet that burden.”

A resident near Slye Park witnessed the shootings from his apartment building, and another witness who knew DiBenedetto also saw the slayings.

After the initial shots were fired by both defendants, DiBenedetto approached Chiuchiolo and fired an adiditional four to six shots in his head. DiBenedetto was additionally convicted on the theory of extreme atrocity or cruelty, prosecutors said.

The defendants were first tried in 1988. That conviction was reversed on appeal because of one witness’s inability to testify in person.

A second trial, conducted in 1994, featured live testimony from the witness and the jury again convicted both men for the murders. The defendants sought a new trial in 2009. After Mulligan’s denial, they appealed their case to the Supreme Judicial Court in 2011.