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Gambino Capo's 1981 Murder Convictions Upheld by 2nd Cir.

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on February 02, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Second Circuit upheld the murder convictions of Bartolomeo Vernace, ruling that the three decades-old murders might have started over a spilled drink dispute, but they certainly did not hurt the mafioso's reputation as a violent mobster.

The circuit's ruling marks a major victory against the Gambino crime family which has, over the years, suffered diminished power and influence.

The "Shamrock Killings"

The now infamous "Shamrock" killings of 1981 were so called because they took place in a Queens, New York bar in 1981 named "the Shamrock." According to underground legend and story, a dispute over a spilled drink soon erupted into the eventual death of victims Richard Godkin and John D'Agnese.

Vernace, for his part, has argued vehemently that his murder-in-aid-of-racketeeing conviction was in error because of the killings, according to him, had nothing to do with the Gambino family whose panel he would eventually occupy. Thus, an improper form of murder applied.

The judge's panel did not buy the capo's argument. A reasonable jury, the panel argued, could have concluded that the public murder in a public bar was somehow related to preserving and even enhancing Vernace's reputation as a Gambino family enforcer, and even the family reputation itself.

Fear Compels Silence

Vernace had essentially out of the reach of law enforcement for decades because fear gripped all material witnesses and kept them from coming forward. Other witnesses just simply refused to cooperate -- like Linda Gotti, niece of John Gotti.

The judges also pointed at that the infamy of the murders was a useful tool in loanshark activities, striking terror in those who didn't pay up for fear of certain reprisal.


Vernace's defense attorney expressed disappointment at the circuit's decision and said that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was not out of the question.

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