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Coverage of Ice Rink Murder Trial

Aired January 3, 2002 - 14:50   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go quickly back to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Opening statements have gotten under way in a trial of a father accused of killing another father and a coach, an ice hockey coach. This is the district attorney, Sheila Calkins.

SHEILA CALKINS, PROSECUTOR: ... was carried out at the Burbank ice arena, unconscious, unresponsive, taken to Lincoln Clinic by ambulance, and pronounced dead the following afternoon. What happened to Michael Costin on that day was that he ran into the defendant, Thomas Junta. Thomas Junta assaulted and beat him, causing fatal injuries, and causing the death of Michael Costin.

It's the Commonwealth's duty, lady's and gentlemen, to prove each and every element of the crime that the defendant is charged with. And the Commonwealth accepts that duty. And the Commonwealth will do that in this case. What the Commonwealth will prove to you, ladies and gentlemen, is that Thomas Junta, the defendant, repeatedly punched Michael Costin intentionally in his head area, and then intentionally took his head and hit it into the floor of the arena. And that caused severe injuries to Michael Costin when he did that, and eventually caused Michael Costin's death.

The way that the Commonwealth will prove the case to you, throughout this trial is by calling witnesses. What the witnesses will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, is what happened on that day, what each of them saw. One of the things about witnesses, ladies and gentlemen, is that they all have a different opportunity and a different view, and a different interpretation of what happened.

Each witness -- some of them will be short, some of them will be long. But each and every one of them is very important to this case. For what they will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that will help you to decide this case is what they saw happen on that day between the defendant, Thomas Junta, and Michael Costin.

What the witnesses will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, is that Michael Costin arrived at the arena that day at 2:00 in the afternoon, went into the locker room with his kids, they got changed and they went out onto the ice. The stick practice was from 2:00 to 4:00 that afternoon. When they got out onto the ice, they asked different children that were out there also, skating in full hockey gear -- because that's whole point of stick practice. You can go out with hockey gear on and you can practice hockey or you can play games. They asked a bunch of kids if they wanted to take part in a hockey game. They even asked an adult, Mr. John Cullen (ph), who you will hear from, if he wanted to partake in the game. Mr. Costin, his sons, their two friends, Mr. Cullen. And the defendant's young son and two of his friends were at rink. And they also took part in that hockey game.

And what you will hear, ladies and gentlemen, is that Mr. Junta arrived that afternoon during the stick practice. And that he was seen here, near the front doors, near that end of ice rink, and that he all of a sudden appeared to get upset. He was watching the kids skate. He saw what he believed to be some rough play. He got upset and ran the length of the rink, opened this door, down by the skating club room, and yelled out to Mr. Costin.

He then walked back to this area of the rink. A few minutes later, stick practice ended. It ended at 10 minutes to 4:00, approximately. And as the parties that were on the rink started to file off the ice rink, they all headed into the general area of these two locker rooms. One of the important things about doing a view before the trial starts is you actually got an opportunity to see the rink, and observe all of the different areas that the witnesses will be talking about, at the view this morning.

You also will see photographs. But what you have to remember about photographs, ladies and gentlemen, is that they are usually taken with a wide-angle lens. So it was important for you today, and the reason Mr. Orlandy (ph) and I kept repeating ourselves and asking you to observe the distance, to observe the area and the size of certain areas, was because the photographs are wide-angled photographs. And so your view personally this morning will be very important to your understanding of what the witnesses saw, and what happened.

As they came off the rink, Mr. Junta's son went into locker room No. 2. As you recall, that's as you're going into the alcove on the left. He was standing at the door to locker room two, and he was yelling into the looker room, and to his son. Mr. Costin came off the ice and was walking with his -- the children he was with. Walked behind Mr. Junta, and made a statement, "That's hockey."

Mr. Junta turned to him and said, "That's not hockey," and swore at him. And an altercation broke out. And what witnesses will tell you, ladies and gentlemen, is that they observed Michael Costin near the threshold, near the door into locker room one, and that he was on the ground, and that Mr. Junta was over him.

The altercation was broken up by a young college man, Ryan Carr (ph), who was there. Mark Porto (ph), the Zamboni driver -- and you saw where the Zamboni was in the distance from the locker rooms -- a man by the name of Mr. Cullen, that I've already told you about. They broke up the altercation between the two men.

Mr. Junta was asked to leave the rink, and he did. He left through the main doors and proceeded out into the lobby area. Mr. Costin went into locker room No. 1, where his children were and their friends, and other kids that had been out on the ice. He took off his skates -- because when he came off the ice, as you can imagine, he was in full hockey gear. He had skates on, pads on, hockey helmet.

During the first altercation though, witness will tell you that he did not have his helmet on. He did have his other equipment on, but he did not have his helmet on. At some point, Mr. Costin is seen coming out of locker room No. 1, within a few minutes after entering. He turned to the left to go by that vending machine and go in the direction of the snack bar and those vending machines you saw here, over by the bleachers.

He was walking in front of the lobby doors, when Mr. Junta came through the doors. Another witness that you will hear from, ladies and gentlemen, is Nancy Blanchard (ph). She's the assistant manager at the rink where you were today. And what she will tell you is that she was in this little room, and she was on the phone a couple of times during the first altercation, calling 911, because a woman had run in and said to her: Two men are fighting, call the police. And she did. She called 911. You'll have an opportunity to hear her 911 calls that day that she made to the Reading police.

Nancy Blanchard will tell you that, after calling 911 and telling them the fight has stopped, they're no longer fighting, she walked out of the office, and Mr. Junta was coming back into the rink. She saw him in this lobby area between the second set of doors and the third set of doors, this third set of doors being the main doors into the rink. And that she stopped him, or attempted to stop him, and said, "Mr. Junta, you need to leave the rink."

And she'll tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that he -- it appears he didn't even see her, and that he pushed her out of the way.

He proceeded to continue through the doors leading into the rink. She will tell you that her memory is that he went through the far set of doors on the right. She believes it was the far right door. As she is standing there, she saw Mr. Costin walk in front of the vending machine, and continue in front of the main doors. And the next thing she saw, were the two of them struggling.

Other witnesses who were inside the rink looking towards the doors, will tell you the same thing, that Mr. Costin was coming through in front of doors and that Mr. Junta came through the main doors and that he lunged at Mr. Costin, threw Mr. Costin to the floor, kneeled over or sat on Mr. Costin, and proceeded to punch him repeatedly to the left side of his head and neck area.

Some of the witness will tell you that he saw Mr. Costin attempting to avoid the blows by turning his head to the right, but that the blows continued to hit him to left side of his face and neck area. They will tell you ladies and gentlemen, that at some point, when he was on the ground, he lost consciousness. Thomas Junta was pulled off of Michael Costin by the same young man who helped break up the first fight, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) . He will tell you he grabbed Mr. Junta from behind by both of his arms, pulled him off, Mr. Junta came up, and he eventually was told to leave. Michael Costin never got up. Nancy Blanchard will tell you she walked over and he was, eyes wide open, but not seeing. Sergeant Cormier (ph) and EMTs arrived, attempted CPR at the scene but were unable to get Mr. Costin to respond. He was taken to the emergency room at Leahy Clinic. And as I said, he was pronounced dead the following afternoon.

Dr. Kessler (ph) is a medical examiner who will testify that he was the one that performed the autopsy, and he is very important, ladies and gentlemen, because he is going to be able to tell you firsthand what he observed when he performed the autopsy on Mr. Costin. And he will tell you about the deep hemorrhaging, the deep trauma, to his left front shoulder, consistent with being punched in that area, the deep trauma, the bleeding, the hemorrhaging to the left side of his neck, the bruising to his left ear.

You will be able to see a photograph of that. He also found when he performed the autopsy, a torn vertebral artery. You will be hearing that term a lot. It's a medical term, vertebral artery, it's an artery that runs up on each side of the spinal cord. Dr. Kessler will explain that it runs up on each side, the same way that the corotid artery does, and that it is protected by the bone or the vertebrae on each side of the spinal cord.

But what he saw when he performed the autopsy, ladies and gentlemen, was that on the left vertebral artery, it was torn. He was able to see where that had torn and that the blood from that artery had traveled up through that artery into the brain of Michael Costin.

You will here the term subachroid (ph) hemorrhage, what Dr. Kessler, will explain, is that that is just the bleeding into an area of the brain. There will be diagrams that he will be able to help explain to you what he is talking about and what he saw.

He also will tell you that when he performed the autopsy that there was severe swelling and injury to the brain of Michael Costin. At the end of this case, ladies and gentlemen, I will come before you, as the judge as told you, and I will do a closing argument. And what I will do, ladies and gentlemen, is I will go over all of the evidence that the commonwealth has introduced through exhibits and witness testimony, photographs, diagrams, and at that point, ladies and gentlemen, I will suggest to you that I have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Thomas Junta is responsible for Michael Costin's death, that is intentional acts on that day are what caused Michael Costin's death.

I will stand before you and ask you, before you begin deliberating, to find him guilty of the crime of manslaughter. Thank you.


If I may, with your permission, you honor.

THOMAS ORLANDI, DEFENDANT'S ATTORNEY: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is one of two times as the judge has indicated to you, that I will have the personal opportunity to talk to you about this case, the 18 months I have been be working on it, the evidence that we have put together for you today. I would say to you, to begin with, that everything in life is not always as it seems.

I promise you today, that there are two sides to every story. When I say I promise you that, I ask you to keep an open mind when you listen to the evidence before you deliberate, and the judge will instruct you on that.

I will show you, what I submit to you the commonwealth did not state to you in their opening argument and I will show you evidence that I submit to you the commonwealth will not present. How will I do that?

Because this is a criminal case, it's a very serious criminal case, my client has absolutely no burden. He can sit there mute, he don't have present a witness. The government has to present the entire case. He is also governed by the wonderful principle that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The government must prove every element of this crime by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Tom Junta has asked me to testify. He wants to tell you his side of the story. I suggest to you that is not going to be easy for him. He is not a veteran of courtroom. He is going to make mistakes, he is going to be embarrassed and he is a big man. He knows he is a big man. He has always been a big man. He is going to tell you that, he has always had a weight problem.

What is going to say to you and what other evidence are we going to present? Let me start with Tom Junta. Tom is a truck driver. He is not a college professor. Tom is a high school graduate. He never went beyond high school. Tom is a family man. He has two wonderful children. He is going to tell you that. He has been married 14 years. He has been on the same job for 14 years. He is going to tell you how he works and presents himself on his job. He works ten to 15 hours, four days a week. He is going to tell you that, so the other three he can spend with his two children and his wife. They are a hockey family. He could coach hockey, he has been at it so long.

His daughter, he is going to tell you, is captain of the Reading High School hockey team, the hockey team that his wife will tell you she helped start. His 12 year-old son Quinlan, who is now 12, was 10 1/2 when this started. He has been playing hockey most of his life.

Tom is going to tell you that on that day in question, July 15th, 2000 he went home from work having started at 4:00 a.m. Had some conversation with his wife Michelle. She said that she had to go and continue teaching. She is a swimming instructor in the afternoons, and a part-time substitute teacher in the mornings.

She asked him if he would to go to the rink. The children had gone to the rink and bring them home for a pool party that afternoon at their home. He said sure. He is going to tell you he did some yard work, because it was an hour before practice ended. He left in his truck and he drove to the rink to pick up his son Quinlan and his two friends, Garrett Collins and Travis Burke. He went into the rink, sat down on the fourth level near the lobby doors reading a newspaper, and watching the game. There was a woman there. The woman was the mother of one of the children, Mrs. Bush. They had some conversation. As a result of what she said to him in the conversation that he had, he put down his newspaper and he started to watch what was going on, on the ice.

I'm not a hockey player so I had learn some terms in this case and Tom Junta will tell you, as will some other witness, what the difference is between a stick practice, and a contact practice. His understanding was that the boys has gone down for stick practice. He is going to tell you that stick practice means non-contact practice, usually. He is going to tell you also that it means you don't use entire hockey equipment.

You might not wear shoulder pads or you might not wear some of the equipment they usually wear in a game. Why is that? Because when people check, even at this age, they check into the boards, they can get hurt if they are not in full equipment. He knew what his son had on and he started intently watching. Four boys from Linfield, a group he didn't know, and a male adult skating on the ice. And he is going to say, I started watching this. And the first half it was OK. But he is going to tell you, as will his son, Quinlan, who is -- this is very difficult for him to testify, he is going to tell you that in the beginning of game there was scoring.

The younger boys from Reading, at 10 years old, playing the 12 and 13 year-olds, were about even. Then something happened. Redding boys started outscoring. I suggest to you, he is going to tell you, the macho thing started coming out. The younger boys are now outscoring the Reading boys. The next thing he knows, the stick practice goes from not what he believed as the D.A. told you was rough youth play. It goes to hitting, fighting, slashing with a hockey stick off the back of one of young kid's legs to a pig pile and they are all fighting at the end of the rink.

You saw the length of that rink. At that point, after observing all of this, he will tell you, he had had enough. He will tell you, what is this adult who is skating with these boys doing? Why isn't he stopping this? He gets up, he runs down the rink by that door that opens inward, and looks in the corner. There is a bunch of kids all on the floor and they are fighting and punching.

He starts yelling to the adult, what are you doing? Control this!

The adult, the 160-pound man who -- you will hear that weight many times -- who is in full hockey gear, helmet, gloves, ice skates, hockey stick, turns to him and says, it's hockey. It's hitting. He says, pardon the profanity, "Bullshit! It's not hitting. It's fun."

Some other conversation goes on. And they break up what he categorizes a pig pile and the kids get up. He returns to his seat, walks all the way down the ice, hopefully thing are under control. The practice is almost over. He is waiting for them to come off the ice, down comes Quinlan, 10 and 1/2, skating toward the end of the ice, he catches an elbow in the side of his from the Linfield guys.

He sees this. By the time he gets to the end of the rink, Quinlan has had it. The buzzer has gone off, he is skating off the ice, crying. Tom takes Quinlan, Gary Collins, and Travis Bush into the locker room. As you heard the D.A. state, he is in the locker room door, yelling, Quinny, you have to defend yourself. You shouldn't take those cheap shots.

He then says, for the first time, and there are several times he does this, hurry up, let's go, I want to get out of here.

At that moment, with his back to the other locker room, at that time other looker room, who comes into alcove that you looked at today? This little 160-pound man next to my client, who is 270 pounds. He says something about "hockey is hitting." And as the D.A. said, my client turned around, his kid is now hurt, crying and he starts "Bullshit, hockey isn't about hitting. Stick practice isn't about hitting. It's about kids having fun."

What happens next? he is going to tell you. At that moment, the 160-pound man, on skates, at now about 6'3 pushes his chest into Mr. Junta's face. Pushes his chest into Mr. Junta's face. That, ladies and gentleman, is the first, I suggest to you, the first physical attack on this 270-pound man. Why would a 160-pound man do that? You think about it.

It doesn't stop here. Now they get into a pushing, shoving, swearing, and tugging match. Will are going to see some photos about what happen in that alcove, to Mr. Junta, the 270 man versus the 160 pounder. You are going to see Mr. Junta wind up with a four-inch cut on his face. You are going to see Mr. Junta wind up with a circular scratch around his entire neck, because he is going to testify to you that the 160-pound man grabbed his necklace, which you will see, tried to choke him with it, and ripped it off his neck leaving, as if you tied a rope around your neck and you had a rope burn.

You are also going to see his shirt on the left side of his body almost ripped off his body. Going to show you photos of that. He has got photos of it. Not wide-angle photos -- close-up photos. Shirt hanging off his body. He is going to show you scratches on his stomach, scratches underneath here. And he is going to show his shins, because Mr. Costin, this 160 pound man, who is full gear, the district attorney says without his helmet, I don't remember that, but he is in full gear with steel blades on his feet. He is now trying to jam them into the top of Mr. Costin's sneakers and his shins, and Costin is doing this, trying to fend him off and you will hear witnesses say, keep your god damn skates down.

Costin goes down, they both go down. There's no testimony then that he is punching Costin, punching, and he is just taking his face and had it hit, his body, had it hit. His shins hit, skates into his sneakers.

What does he do? He gets up and Ryan Car (ph) fortunately one of the eyewitnesses to this case, a well-known hockey player, stands between them. What does Mr. Junta do then? He turns to his son again and said hurry up, let's got out of here. There is some controversy about whether the woman said you have to leave or not.

In any event, he leaves, he retreats. And Ryan Carr is going to tell you, he looked at him, he wasn't threatening Mr. Carr. He wasn't huffing and steaming and trying to push him. Carr stood there said, come on, you have to leave. Mr. Junta is going to tell you he went over, reached down, and Ryan Carr said, here is your necklace, and he picked up his glasses on the floor and he left.

Told his boys, come on. He retreated. You saw the distance from that alcove to that lobby door. You have a diagram. You are going to get measurements. If I remember right, it is approximately 21 feet from that alcove to that lobby door. You looked at it today, you will see how short a distance it is. He walked out, and he left. With him, was Garrett Collins, another, I think Garrett is 10 1/2. He and Quinny have been playing hockey for years. They go out of lobby, outside where you saw me standing in the parking lot, where Mr.Junta's pickup truck is parked.

He goes to his truck, puts down his broken necklace and his charm, his glasses, goes to the back of the truck, takes down the heavy tail gate and says to Quinny, where are the other boys? I will go get, he says, them no, no I better go get them. And he is going to tell you at that time, he is concerned, because now he has the 160- pound guy who he just had a fight with who's still back there, and he's got the Lynnfield boys still back there, and his 10 1/2-year-old son and Travis Burke are all alone. That's the other side of the story.

As he walks back in that lobby -- and that's why I asked you specifically to look at that lobby, look at the glass, look at the sun, look at the reflections that are coming through. He walks back from the right-hand side of that lobby, he opens the door, as you all did today. Think of the body action when you open that door. Reach out with your right hand, open the door. You don't reach out with your right hand and do this, do you? You reach out, and open up. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

At that moment, Thomas Junta senses -- and Ryan Carr (ph) is going to testify to you because he saw the whole thing -- Thomas Junta senses something to his left. He turned, and he will tell you he saw a man now he recognizes as the deceased. The hand is here, it's coming up, his leg is up. The punch is flying at his face. He will tell you what went through his mind mentally. He said, is this guy a karate or a nut? That's what he's going to tell you went through his mind.

Physically then, what does he do? Does he kick him? Punch him? He is going to tell you, he ducked quickly. The momentum of that punch drivers Costin onto his back. Two boys saw this. They are going to testify to it. He is now hunched over Costin, the 160-pound man, is now on his back. He feels the blows to the back. He is trying to grab him. They hit the garbage pale that you saw today, and they are on the floor.

That takes, I submit to you, probably five seconds. When they hit the floor, Mr. Costin, according to Mr. Junta, is flipped to the floor. He hits the floor with his head and his body. Mr. Junta at that point is on his knees. And remember the opening with this district attorney about what Mr. Costin was doing at that time, because I submit to you what Mr. Costin, the 160-pound was doing at that time -- and Ryan Carr (ph) is going to tell you what he saw because Ryan Carr (ph) was there in seconds, Ryan Carr (ph) saw this position on the floor. Mr. Costin, who had already kicked him, punched him and scratched him -- do you think he's lying there quietly and calmly?

Ryan Carr (ph) is going to tell you, as is Mr. Junta, he's trying to kick Junta, he's trying to throw punches at him. He's got Junta's left hand. Mr. Junta is trying to pull the hand away; Costin is coming up, and Mr. Junta does hit him. He says he does. Three punches -- one, two, three -- it's over.

Costin then goes into a defensive position. When he does, Mr. Junta stops. Costin stops the fighting and kicking. Mr. Junta stops. Ryan Carr (ph) has him by the shoulders, he looks at Ryan, he stands up. He is not swearing at Ryan, he is not pushing Ryan, he is not threatening Ryan, as someone might be who would be out of control. He looks over, and his kids are right there crying. He says for the third time, "let's go, let's get out of here." He takes Quinny, he goes back to the locker room because he still has some tape on his legs, he rips the tape off.

He says, "let's go, let's get out of here." They leave the locker room. As he is going out of the building, he is confronted by this woman Nancy Blanchard (ph) -- it was either in the lobby or as he got outside. She now demands that he now turn over his children to her. He says, "wait a minute, this is my son and my kids, they are coming with me." She said, "no, you're not." He then said, he'll tell you, I looked at myself, I was not a calming influence on these kids, he said, "OK, she is in charge, just go with her until we got mommy."

He then goes over by the bench that you saw outside and he sits down, because he had heard that someone called the police, and he waits for the police. The police arrive. They come over and they talk to him. They go inside to investigate. You have all watched television and you have all heard what Miranda rights are. You have the right to remain silent, sir, you have a right to an attorney. You don't have to say anything. Anything you say will be used against you. Would you like to tell us what happened? His response, "yes, I would, I have got nothing to hide, sir."

They interviewed him. They asked him, "will you write out a statement?" He says, "yes, sir." He writes out a statement on the hood of his car, momentarily after this event, before he has had time to think about it, before he has had time to sit down with lawyers or other witnesses. He writes that statement. You are going to get that statement. Look at it very carefully.

We have also had that statement typewritten. One of the police officers -- he had it typewritten because it's hard to read. We have agreed that that would be introduced for you to look at. Look at the fear in the statement, the punching in the statement, what he says. Immediately after this happened.

Next, he spends another half-hour at the rink. And one of the police officers, I don't remember the name, says, "would you mind coming down to the station with us and giving us a recorded statement? Let us talk to you, take some pictures." He says, "absolutely." He leaves and goes down to the Redding police station.

At that point, state police arrive; the Redding police arrive. They set up a recording device, and they start questioning him. And I suggest to you, look at that statement. You will get that as well. So you will have this handwritten, the other one that was typewritten, and you'll have a very long interview.

When you look at that statement, which will be submitted into evidence, I'd like you to particularly look at everything in it, but especially some of the discussions that the trooper has when he said, "you probably don't realize it, Mr. Junta, do you realize the marks on your face and your body, and what's happened to you?" Mr. Junta says, "no, I can't see my face." And the trooper asks him again: "How did this happen? How did you get all of this damage?"

I want you to think about that when you compare the first fight with Mr. Costin -- who supposedly didn't have his helmet on. I submit to you you aren't going to get one single solitary bit of evidence from any witness that says Mr. Costin after that first fight showed any bruises to his face, any scars to his face, any ripped shirt off of his body. I submit to you you're not going to get one single solitary piece of evidence on that, because there was none. The 160- pound guy, believe it or not, I submit...


ORLANDI: I'm sorry. Thank you.

Going back to the statement that will be submitted, look very carefully at that statement. Now, that statement, if I remember right, is taken at station, the recorded one I'm talking about, about an hour and a half after this incident, in a well-lit room with police officers who are trained to investigate and trained to look for facts. Look at that statement what the trooper says when he says, "can I see your hands?" Tom shows his hands. And the trooper didn't finish the sentence, but look at the statement. He looks at him and says, "no visible" -- and the word "marks" gets lost or whatever was said was lost -- "no visible" on his hands.

Now, why is that something you should hone in on? Mr. Junta is going to tell you in a few seconds it took from going from point A to point B and he hit the floor that he hit Mr. Costin three times, maybe four. He thinks he hit him maybe once in the shoulder, and two or three times in the face. If he hit Mr. Costin 10 times, 15 times, 20 times in the side of his head -- that hurts me and I'm doing it lightly -- but if he did this 10 or 20 times -- and why am I doing that? Because Nancy Blanchard (ph) says Mr. Junta hit him 10 to 20 times. No disrespect to Nancy Blanchard (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), please, no argument, this is the opening statement.

ORLANDI: Thank you. Nancy Blanchard (ph) in her testimony is going to tell you that she observed him hitting him 10 to 20 times. Take that under consideration. When she does testify, I'm going to ask her to look at her written statement, and I want you to look at her written statement. I submit to you in her written statement there is no such thing as 10 to 20 times.


ORLANDI: Thank you, your honor.

Other witness are going to testify. You have Quinlin. Quinlin is now 12. He was 10 1/2 at time. He came out of the locker room after the first fight just as his friend Garrett hollered to him. He is going to tell you, as he stepped out of that little alcove -- you saw the shot distance -- he looked over and he saw Mr. Costin on his father's back, and that they then moved to the floor. And he's going to tell you how many punches he saw his dad throw.

Jared Collins (ph) is another boy, now 12, approximately 10 1/2. He was the boy that I said to you was leading Mr. Junta back in when he opened the door and went through first. He is going to tell you he turned around and he saw the 160-pound Mr. Costin on Mr. Junta's back.

In addition to these two boys, these eyewitness, you are going to have Ryan Carr (ph), who is the commonwealth's witness. Ryan Carr plays hockey for Saint Michaels. He was at the rink. And he was trying out for, I think, some team in Nebraska. I had the opportunity a few days ago to call him. And he invited me up. And we talked. And I asked him -- and he is going to testify to you -- "What did you observe?"

And he is going to tell you what his observations were of the demeanor of Mr. Costin -- I mean, Mr. Junta. He is also going to tell you that he had the opportunity to see Mr. Costin leave the locker room after the first fight, heading for the lobby. He is going to say -- quote -- "I observed him leaving." And I said, "How was he walking?" "I observed him leaving intently from that locker room" -- intently.

He wasn't lingering and walking slowly out of that locker room. He was leaving intently. And, seconds later, he tried to sucker-punch -- I use that term loosely -- as Mr. Junta will tell you -- him in the face.

Next, you are going to hear, as the district attorney has told you, a lot of medical terminology by Dr. Kessler (ph) about bleeding and how it went into the neck and all that. I stipulate that there was an injury. I stipulate that the artery tore. I stipulate that that, whatever Dr. Kessler tells you about blood, went into him. But we are going to have a Dr. Canfor (ph) come in. Dr. Canfor is a medical examiner from Connecticut. He is going to come in. He has looked at the reports. He has looked at what happened. He has looked at what -- what went on here. And he is going to testify to you, in his own medical way, about how this artery tore, how it happened, how a punch could cause it to happen. And he is going to tell you his medical opinion about what happened on this day in question.

I submit to you, when you hear all the evidence, the judge will then talk to you on the rules of law. And I submit to you, you will not find by proof beyond a reasonable doubt that this man should be (OFF-MIKE)

Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We have been listening to the opening statements there by the prosecution, and just now by the defense, in this trial, just outside Boston, Massachusetts -- one father, Thomas Junta, accused after a hockey practice of getting into a fight, and the fight leading, allegedly, to the death of the other father, who was also the coach of the team.

Joining me here in the studio in Washington is former prosecutor, Cynthia Alksne.

Cynthia, for those of us who have been listening, we are getting two completely different versions of what happened that day in July 2000. How does a jury go about sorting out the information in a situation like this?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, of course, they wait until the witnesses, although the statistics overwhelmingly say that jurors make up their mind just based on two completely different views often. And then the prosecutor and defense attorney are constantly battling, which juror they won and which juror they lost just after opening their statement view.

It will be different in this case. The defense attorney has done something very important. And that is that he promised his client would testify. It means not only for those of us who watch the case that it will be fascinating because his client will take the stand, which is somewhat rare, but that the jurors will wait and not make up their mind in the case until after he testifies.

He has also done a couple other important things. One, he said he is going to be calling some of these children. As you know, three of the children of the decreased essentially watched their father be killed in front of them, as did the child of the defendant, watched his father kill this person. And these boys are going to be called to testify. So that increases the drama of the case. And it allows the jury -- it inspires them to wait and make up their mind and really analyze and use their common sense.

And the other thing that he has done very well is humanize his client. His client sitting there, he is a big man. He is 275 pounds. The victim in this case was 160, although they were both tall. They are both tall. But he is humanizing him. He's sitting there. He's hunched over. His eyes are not looking down. He is looking very humble. He is looking very sorrowful.

And so the defense attorney has done a good job. But we'll have to -- obviously, he has a tough road to hoe, because the victim in this case essentially smashed his head to the floor and killed him.

WOODRUFF: Well, in essence, you are going to have one group of eyewitnesses on the side of the prosecution, another group of witnesses on the side of the defense. Is it a matter of who tells the story more believably here?

ALKSNE: It is partly that. But, also, in a self-defense case like this, I think we are going to find that some of the prosecution witnesses are going to help the defense and some of the defense witnesses are going to help the prosecution.

For instance, the prosecution has admitted that the beginning of the fight may have been started by the victim in this case. That is an important fact for the defense, so that in a self-defense case like this that is so fact specific, it all meshes together. And the jurors will sit down really use their common sense about whether or not they could have been in the position of this father. Could anything that happened in that hockey rink gotten them so mad that they would have smashed somebody's head to ground until they killed them?

WOODRUFF: All right, Cynthia Alksne, former prosecutor, thank you very much for joining us. As we say, we are watching just the beginning, with opening statements today, of this trial just outside Boston, Massachusetts: one man accused of killing another man in the aftermath of a hockey practice with their 10-year-old sons.




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