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Appeal rejected in ’86 North End double murder

SJC judge won’t grant new trial

A state Supreme Judicial Court justice 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, who were hoping for a new trial, had contended that newly discovered DNA evidence would prove their innocence in the 1986 murders of Joseph Bottari and Frank Chiuchiolo.

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

The DNA evidence, recovered from DiBenedetto’s shoes at the time of his arrest, did not match the DNA of either victim. The defendants asserted that the evidence proves they are not guilty. Prosecutors disagreed and pointed to witness testimony and the possibility that 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,” Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said in a statement.

Conley said that the murders, which occurred Feb. 19, 1986, in Slye Park in Boston, now called Copp’s Hill Park, were witnessed by two people who identified the defendants.

“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 rejecting 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.”

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The shootings were witnessed by a resident of a nearby building and another person known to DiBenedetto.

After the initial shots fired by both defendants, DiBenedetto approached Chiuchiolo and fired four to six shots in his head, Conley’s office said. DiBenedetto was also 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 one witness was unable to testify in person.

A second trial, conducted in 1994, included live testimony from the witness, and the jury convicted both men a second time. The defendants sought a new trial in 2009. After Mulligan’s denial, they appealed to the SJC in 2011.

Jasper Craven can be reached at jasper.craven@globe.com.

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