A father and son serving life in prison for the 1995 murders of four men inside a 99 Restaurant in Charlestown are attempting to get a new trial by reviving their argument that the victims had a history of violence and were the aggressors in the encounter that led to their deaths.
Attorneys for Anthony Clemente Sr. and his son Damian appeared before a five-judge panel of the state's highest court yesterday, arguing that the Adjutant Rule, named after Rhonda Adjutant, a defendant in a precedent-setting 1999 case, should apply to their clients.
The Adjutant Rule was used with success recently in the case of Alexander Pring-Wilson, a Harvard University graduate student whose first-degree murder conviction in 2005 was tossed out after his lawyers introduced evidence that the victim, Michael Colono, had a violent past and was the aggressor in a fight with Pring-Wilson that culminated in Colono's death.
Damian Clemente's lawyer, Robert Sheketoff, spoke to the media outside a second-floor courtroom in the Supreme Judicial Court in the John Adams Courthouse in downtown Boston yesterday.
"We're seeking a new trial based on the decision in Adjutant," he said. "We wanted to show that these victims were the first aggressors."
Nearby, the family of the two convicted men huddled with Rosemary Scapicchio, the lawyer representing Anthony Clemente. Minutes earlier, Scapicchio had presented her case to the panel of judges.
Assistant District Attorney Dave McGowan spoke on behalf of the Commonwealth, arguing that the history of the victims - Robert Luisi, his son Roman, Antonio Sarro, and Anthony Pelosi Jr. - was introduced in the initial trial and that a jury nevertheless convicted the Clementes of first-degree murder.
Jake Wark, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said in a telephone interview: "The trial jury heard evidence of the victims' propensity for violence and rejected it, finding that the defendants were not acting in self-defense. There was no evidence that the victims armed themselves."
The panel is expected to deliberate for at least four months on whether the Adjutant Rule applies to the case.
According to court records, Damian Clemente had been threatened on several occasions leading up to the shooting, and had been told by friends that the men issuing the threats had a propensity for violence and were well-known in the North End for brutality. Clemente told his father that the Luisi and Sarro families had been harassing and threatening him.
According to the court records, Damian Clemente called his father from the 99 Restaurant on Nov. 6, 1995, telling his father, "they're here, all of them." Anthony Clemente went to the restaurant and to the booth where the men were sitting. Roman Luisi jumped out of the booth and reached for a "fanny pack" he was wearing. Anthony Clemente shot Roman Luisi, Pelosi, Robert Luisi, and Anthony Sarro, according to the records.