The case against a family took a considerable dent on Friday, as a judge dismissed charges against one of the co-defendants. The attorney for Ali Fisher has argued that prosecutors misled grand jurors to indict his client in Stephanie DeJesus‘ beating death. Charges were disturbing or desecrating human remains, hindering apprehension, and obstructing.
That leaves open the similar case against Fisher’s parents Ali Gibson and Clo Fisher. His brother Justin Fisher faces charges including murder.
Key witness Joelle Martucci, who was Justin’s fiancée, pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension and tampering with evidence. In return, she had agreed to testify against the other defendants.
During a court appearance, Martucci said that she arrived at the home she shares with Fisher and their young son on Feb. 23 to find DeJesus’ body on the floor “covered in blood.”
Martucci testified that Fisher’s parents, Ali Gibson and Clo Fisher, and his brother Ali Fisher, arrived at the home shortly after she did that night. She testified that as part of the conspiracy, DeJesus’ body was put in the trunk of a car. The victim was reportedly a mother.
Ali Fisher’s attorney of record John McMahon said in court however that Martucci’s statements about Ali were exculpatory. Fisher was only there for a little while, and there is no indication he saw the body. From McMahon, in a March 22 hearing:
So that’s kind of important here because in her statement, Ms. Martucci says, yeah, “Ali Fisher, he was in the foyer.” What does she, she said, “I saw him out of the corner of my eye.” She said she doesn’t know if he saw a body or not. You know, he’s in the foyer. His parents are in the foyer trying to get him out of there, quite frankly. And — and, so and I’ll get to whether it even matters what he saw or didn’t see. But, you know, even she’s saying, I — I don’t know. I caught him out of the glimpse — out of the corner of my eye. She’s there first. He says — she says — Joelle Martucci says “Ali Fisher is there for a split second.
He said Martucci described Ali Fisher’s role as “non-existent”:
I marked two things, Judge, but before I get there, let’s just deal with the easy things first which is Joelle Martucci. She entered her plea before Your Honor. She was asked what Ali Fisher’s role was. In almost a — non-existent, that’s how she described his role, non-existent. He had nothing to do with anything. In her statement, she says, “He was only in the foyer.”
He said grand jurors did not get to hear this exculpatory information.
In opposing the defense’s motion to dismiss, the Passiac County Prosecutor’s Office argued they still had the evidence to met their burden of proof at this state of the stage. From the filing signed by Jonathan Barrera:
To establish a prima facie case that Ali Fisher committed this crime, the State presented surveillance video evidence that he was inside the residential building where Justin Fisher murdered the victim. Detective Bierach explained that Ali Fisher arrived at the house around 7:03 PM, was inside for approximately five minutes after accounting for the time he spent outside, and drove away around 7:21 PM. After Ali Fisher left, the footage depicts Justin Fisher and his father moving a large package into the trunk of the victim’s car. A grand jury could reasonably infer that, during the time he was inside, Ali Fisher assisted with or observed his father and brother handling the victim’s body as they prepared to move it into the trunk.
First, Martucci’s statement does not squarely negate the elements of the charges against Ali Fisher because she did not directly observe him. Second, her statement is not clearly exculpatory because it is contradicted by the surveillance video showing Ali Fisher at the crime scene. Any analysis of the credibility of Martucci’s statement, specifically regarding Ali Fisher’s role in covering up his brother’s crimes, should be reserved for the petit jury during the trial phase.
Judge Justine A. Niccollai sided with the defense.
The Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office did not immediately respond to a Law&Crime request for comment.
Read the court documents below:
[Images via Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office]
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