Jury deliberations could begin as early as this afternoon in the murder trial of Salem resident Michael Ferreira.
The prosecution and the defense wrapped up their cases on Wednesday and closing arguments in the highly publicized "cold case" are scheduled for this morning in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, Mass.
Ferreira is one of three men arrested in 2011 and charged with kidnapping Tewksbury, Mass. 15-year-old Johnny McCabe off the street back in 1969, driving him to a vacant lot in Lowell, Mass. and binding and gagging him in such a way that he died from asphyxiation. Ferreira was 16 at the time of the killing.
While the prosecution concedes the death of McCabe was not premeditated, it has pushed for a first-degree murder charge because of "indifference to life" and "extreme cruelty."
Depending on the instructions the jury members receive from Judge David Ricciardone before deliberations begin, they could acquit completely or convict on either a charge of 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, felony 2nd degree murder or involuntary manslaughter.
On Wednesday, the defense called just four witnesses, including Ferreira's wife, the former Nancy Williams, who testified that Ferreira was with her at the time of the murder. However, on cross-examination, Assistant District Attorney Tom O'Reilly got her to admit that she had never stated the defendant was with her late on the night of Sept. 26, 1969 in several previous interviews with investigators.
The defense's final witness was Dr. Thomas Andrew, the medical examiner for the State of New Hampshire and an expert in the field of forensic anthropology. On direct examination, defense attorney Eric Wilson used Andrew's testimony to try and shoot holes in the prosecution's assertion that McCabe was hogtied before he died and that he was killed where he was found.
Andrew testified that the position of ligature marks around the neck, combined with the fact that the body was found in a prone position and in full rigor mortis, it was highly unlikely McCabe was hogtied as co-conspirator and star witness Edward Brown testified.
On cross-examination, Andrew admitted that had the rope connecting McCabe's ankles and neck been released after about 90 minutes, as the prosecution contends, the body would have been found in the same state of rigor mortis.
Andrew also said in his opinion, McCabe was killed at a different place and then his body was moved to where it was found in the vacant lot. He based this on lividity (blood pooling) on the victim's back and front side.
"In my opinion, the body was moved," said Andrew.
Conspicuous by his absence during the trial was Walter Shelley, the third man arrested for McCabe's murder in April 2011 and the only one of the three still living in Tewksbury. He is awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder and intimidation of a witness. It had been thought that Shelley might reach his own plea bargain with the district attorney and testify against Ferreira.
Brown, who now lives in Londonderry, has agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and receive probation in exchange for his testimony against both Ferreira and Shelley.