A wall-pulsating gasp shook a standing-room-only courtroom Wednesday as one of Maui’s longest and most lurid trials concluded with a unanimous guilty verdict returned against Steven Capobianco for the murder of Carly “Charli” Scott and the burning of her truck in February 2014. It was as if Scott’s family and friends had been holding their collective breaths for the past two years, as the case lumbered through the legal system, then exploded in relief and tears when they realized that their hopes had been realized.
Such a verdict had seemed unlikely earlier in the month, when the jury told Judge Joseph Cardoza on Dec. 13 that it had taken three votes and was unable to reach a decision because “we are too divided.” What happened in the jury room in the days that followed won’t be known until a final portion of the trial is concluded to determine the severity of Capobianco’s sentence.
As the gallery in the fourth floor courtroom waited for the verdict, the defendant sat impassively—as he has through most of the seven-month trial—some picking at his fingers the only sign of nervousness. At the guilty verdict, he lowered his head and his aunt quickly left the courtroom. His grandmother, his sole supportive presence through most of the trial, sat pale and red-eyed–perhaps the only person in the courtroom not celebrating the jury’s conclusion.
The five-month pregnant Scott disappeared on Feb. 9, 2014. At the time, Capobianco told police that she had taken him to retrieve his broken truck some three miles past Keanae and had followed him back to Haiku, the last place he saw her. None of that was true: Capobianco’s truck was never broken down, and Scott’s clothes, a few bone fragments and a maggot-covered blanket were found in Nuaailua Bay several days later.
Despite that “big lie,” as his defense lawyer described it (suggesting that the two had instead been driving to a drug deal), the lack of hard evidence against Capobianco made the prosecution’s case difficult and its path toward conclusion long. Jury screening began May 23. Since then, some 59 days of testimony was heard, 76 witnesses were called and 450 pieces of evidence presented. The single piece of DNA evidence—a strand of hair matched to Capobianco found in the pocket of a pair of jeans stained with Scott’s blood—was never entered as evidence because the results weren’t provided to the defense in a timely manner.
After the brief hiccup in their 15-day deliberation, jurors were stoic during the verdict and strongly affirmed their decision when individually polled at the defense’s request.
They’re not done yet. Today, court resumes to present testimony in support of an “enhanced sentence,” due to the “heinous” nature of the crime. It’s expected to take anywhere from two hours to one day.
Photo courtesy Find Charli Scott Facebook page