SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Prosecutors and defense lawyers argued Monday over whether jurors should see a video that shows an 8-year-old boy accidentally shooting himself in the head with an Uzi and his father dropping the camera and praying that his son is all right.
A lawyer for a former western Massachusetts police chief charged in the boy's death asked a judge to keep the graphic videotape out of his trial.
The video would invoke too much emotion from jurors and prejudice them against former Pelham police Chief Edward Fleury, who is about to go on trial in the 2008 death of Christopher Bizilj, said Fleury's attorney, Rosemary Curran Scapicchio.
Scapicchio told Superior Court Judge Peter Velis that the audio portion of the videotape, taken by Christopher's father, is "horrific" and includes the boy screaming while his father drops the camera and prays for his son.
She said the defense does not dispute that the Ashford, Conn., boy shot himself in the head with a 9 mm micro Uzi submachine gun at the Westfield Sportsman's Club.
"It adds nothing to the commonwealth's case," Scapicchio said of the video. "The issue in dispute ... is whether it's reckless to run a gun show and allow 8-year-olds to shoot."
Scapicchio is asking that the videotape be excluded from the trial, or, if it is allowed, to mute the sound so the jury will not hear the anguished cries of the boy and his father.
The defense also had an unusual request if the judge does allow the videotape in as evidence. Scapicchio said prospective jurors should be allowed to view it and "opt out" of serving on the jury if they believe it is so emotionally wrenching that they cannot remain impartial.
The judge, who said he hadn't seen the tape yet, didn't immediately rule on the issues, but said he would before the start of jury selection Tuesday.
Fleury was charged because he owns the company that co-sponsored the gun fair at the Sportman's Club. He has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter as well as four counts of furnishing a machine gun to a minor. Prosecutors also lodged involuntary manslaughter charges against the gun club and two men who supplied the weapons, who both await trial.
Hampden District Attorney William Bennett said the video should be shown to jurors, because it depicts the recklessness of the people who ran the event.
"It shows exactly what happened and why this child died," Bennett told the judge. "The video shows the power of the weapon, the danger of the weapon."
Christopher, 4-foot-3 and 66 pounds, stepped up to the firing range that October day to shoot an Uzi as his father and 11-year-old brother watched from a few feet away.
As Christopher fired the micro submachine gun at a pumpkin, the weapon flipped backward and shot him in the head. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Scapicchio says there is no way Fleury could have anticipated that a child would die when he co-sponsored the event. The two men who supplied the guns — Carl Giuffre and Domenico Spano — had conducted the same gun shoot at the Westfield club for seven years without incident.
Fleury faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted on the manslaughter charge. He faces a maximum of 10 years if convicted of furnishing the weapon to a minor.
Fleury was chief of the Pelham department at the time of the accident, but never returned to duty. The town's select board announced three months later he was stepping down after an extended leave. His attorney said he retired.
Jury selection is expected to take three to four days. The trial is expected to last at least a week.
Giuffre and Spano have pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter. No trial dates have been set for them yet.