A Suffolk Superior Court jury split its verdict in a Dorchester case last week, deciding that a homeless teen opened fire and wounded two young men, but did not kill an Irish immigrant, in two separate incidents in October 2011.
John Graham, who was 16 at the time of the two shootings incidents, was convicted of a litany of charges, including intent to murder and armed assault of the two men on Monsignor Lydon Way. He was found not guilty in the fatal shooting of Ciaran Conneely, a popular 36-year-old undocumented immigrant from Co. Galway who was known to his friends as “Kiwi.”
The trial, presided over by Judge Linda Giles, with Suffolk County assistant district attorney Ian Polumbaum as the lead prosecutor, lasted about a week and a half; jury deliberations lasted less than a day. Graham is scheduled to be sentenced on May 1 and faces up to 60 years in prison on all counts, with the attempted murder conviction itself carrying 20 years. His attorney, Robert Sheketoff, said he planned to appeal the conviction.
The two shooting victims, 18 and 20 years old, respectively, were returning home around 10 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2011, after a trip to a Dorchester Avenue convenience store. A youth sitting on a stoop at the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Lydon Way asked them for a cigarette. They said they didn’t smoke and kept going. According to court documents, the teen then approached them from behind, brandishing a firearm, and told them to empty their pockets as he started a countdown from five.
“Well, three, two, one, [expletive],” one of the two victims said, using a racial slur, apparently under the impression that the gun was fake. The gunman then fired at them from behind, striking the 18 year-old multiple times and nearly killing him. The older victim was hit once in the arm.
Prosecutors say the impulsive teen-age gunman was Graham, then just several weeks shy of his 17th birthday. He was homeless, and had been bouncing from house to house. He had previously been committed to the Department of Youth Services; his father did not have a listed address and his mother did not show up at his trial.
During a grand jury investigation that stretched through November and into December of 2011 before an indictment was handed up on Dec. 20, a number of people, including a relative, fingered Graham as the shooter, according to court papers. Graham told one of the people he was staying with, Joel Winslow, that he had tried to rob two Asians, but when one of them mouthed off, he shot them both, the documents state.
Prosecutors sought to tie Graham to Conneely’s murder three weeks earlier. On Oct. 9, 2011, the Irishman left the American Legion Post on Gallivan Boulevard around midnight and headed up Adams Street toward his home on Nahant Avenue. One man out on his porch noticed Conneely as well as a young black male who was walking past him. The man went back inside to watch television, and then heard what he thought were firecrackers going off. Conneely, with a fatal gunshot wound in his chest, was found outside his apartment building at 1 a.m. by a neighbor.
Police and prosecutors believed the two shootings 21 days apart had several notable things in common: Ballistics testing of recovered bullets showed the same handgun was used to the shoot the three victims; both times there was a countdown after a demand for money or property, according to grand jury witnesses; and the incidents occurred within 0.7 miles of each other.
Surveillance cameras from local stores put Graham him in the area of the Oct. 30 incident. And he had spent time in homes on Edwin Street and Centre Street, both of which are in walking distance of the crime sites. Graham also allegedly admitted to Winslow that he had shot an Irishman and “had a body on him.”
But the prosecution’s side of the Conneely story ran into trouble during the trial where most of the evidence supported the double-shooting. In the first shooting, there were no eyewitnesses to testify about what had happened. The neighbor on his porch, who died before the trial started, could not say with complete confidence that the person who walked past Conneely that night was Graham. And the witnesses who fingered Graham in the grand jury room had offered conflicting testimony. As for the gun, which has not been found, any number of people could have handled it, an expert on the witness stand conceded.
In the second shooting, there was video footage placing Graham in the area of Lydon Way and two surviving victims who described their assailant.
In an interview on Tuesday, Sheketoff said he was pleased to see his client acquitted of the murder charge.
“We intend to appeal the rest of it,” he said.