Court Rejects Appeal of New York Crime Boss
Oct. 11, 1994
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court today turned down the appeal of Vittorio ''Vic'' Amuso, former boss of the Lucchese crime family in New York who is serving a life prison term for 14 murders and other crimes.
The justices, without comment, refused to hear Amuso's argument that he was denied a fair trial because the jury was both anonymous and sequestered.
Amuso was convicted in a 1992 federal trial of 54 counts of racketeering, extortion, fraud, bribery and murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole and fined $250,000.
Amuso was charged with what one court called ''a murderous campaign'' to eliminate anyone connected with his criminal organization suspected of disloyalty.
Two key witnesses against him were Lucchese family members Alfonse D'Arco, one of the highest-ranking hoodlums ever to betray the mob, and Peter Chiodo. The two men testified that they carried out or arranged the 14 murders ordered by Amuso.
Federal agents said the Lucchese family, with about 125 members and 500 associates, was the third largest of New York's five organized-crime families.
The appeal acted on today contended that Amuso was denied the constitutionally required presumption of innocence because jurors, given anonymity and sequestered for the six-week trial, were made to perceive Amuso as vicious and dangerous.
The appeal said the combination of anonymity and being locked up for the duration of the trial had created ''a bunker mentality' for the jurors.
Amuso's lawyers noted that he had stood trial and been acquitted of other charges twice before, and that there had been no hint of jury interference in either of the previous trials.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Amuso's argument last April.
''There was reason to believe the jury needed protection,'' the appeals court said. Noting that jurors were told their sequestration was aimed at protecting them from being tainted by publicity, the appeals court said such a ''neutral explanation ... decreased the probability that the jury would infer that Amuso was guilty or even dangerous.''
The case is Amuso vs. U.S., 94-435.