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Lyons: Was Casciaro verdict a piece of justice?

We sometimes feel a sense of relief in the aftermath of a verdict in a well-publicized case, even if we had no particular personal interest in the case.

A hung jury one year ago after Mario Casciaro’s murder trial left no such relief, and Tuesday night’s guilty verdict might have left a nuanced sense of resolution. But like the resolution of many cases, there’s certainly a hollow feeling.

Many in Johnsburg have had a very personal interest and have ached for more than a decade over the disappearance of 17-year-old Brian Carrick. For Bill Carrick and Brian’s siblings, that ache will never go away. Brian’s mother, Terry, died before seeing a trial.

This is what murders do to survivors, whether they’re solved or not. The range of emotions goes from acute agony to dull melancholy with much in between.

Johnsburg is a close-knit community, like many towns in McHenry County, and there’s a good chance that if one spent any significant time in Johnsburg over the past 20 years he would know at least one of the 14 Carrick children.

Even if you aren’t from Johnsburg, the senseless death of a 17-year-old troubles us all. Carrick was a fairly typical high school kid in many ways. While messing around with marijuana is certainly inadvisable, no one expects it to lead to death.

But that was the case that the McHenry County state’s attorney laid out: Carrick was killed to settle a marijuana debt, and the deed was carried out by convicted felon Shane Lamb, who was acting at the behest of Casciaro.

The case was dependent on Lamb’s testimony, and the fact that Lamb, who might have delivered the fatal blow that killed Carrick, was given immunity raised more than a few eyebrows.

The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office didn’t have a lot of cards to play in this case, and while regrettable that Lamb was given immunity, it’s also understandable. Sometimes prosecutors do have to make a choice on whether to deal with the devil.

If they didn’t make that choice, I don’t know what the alternative was. They tried the case twice, winning the second time.

You can have a reasonable argument about whether Casciaro should have been found guilty of murder for telling Lamb to talk to Carrick about a drug debt, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Casciaro didn’t know what happened to Carrick’s body if he didn’t help dispose of the body himself.

And that’s what leaves us troubled. No one has ever found Carrick’s body. If we believe Lamb’s testimony, we know that at least Lamb and Casciaro were involved in Carrick’s death.

But who else was involved? Why was Robert Render’s blood found in the same produce cooler as Carrick’s? Render died of a drug overdose, but who else let this crime go unsolved for years?

Justice is a word we throw around and, of course, the role of the criminal justice system. It is sometimes achieved, but rarely is it neat and tidy. Justice is elusive, and sometimes the best we can hope for is a piece of it.

• Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. Reach him at 815-526-4505 or email him at kelyons@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinLyonsNWH.

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