Tuesday, March 22, 2016

20 Years and 13 Alibis Later, Bronx DA Agrees to Vacate Richard Rosario's Murder Conviction


by Dan Slepian
Mar. 22, 2016

Richard Rosario has spent two decades behind bars, insisting for every one of those years that 13 alibi witnesses could prove he was innocent of a 1996 New York City murder.

On Tuesday, the Bronx District Attorney's Office told NBC News it intends to ask a judge to throw out Rosario's conviction.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark confirmed that the DA will move to vacate the conviction and ask that Rosario be released from prison "after a review by her office determined that he did not receive a fair trial."


Rosario is currently in the 20th year of a 25-to-life sentence for the 1996 murder of 17-year-old Jorge Collazo in the Bronx.

Rosario insists he was 1,000 miles away in Florida on the day of the crime and among the witnesses who can vouch for him are a sheriff's deputy, a pastor, and a federal correctional officer.

"I turned myself in when I heard police were looking for me," Rosario, now 40, told Dateline two years ago. "I gave detectives everything they needed that first night to prove my innocence. They never investigated any of it."


Two eyewitnesses had picked Rosario's photo out of a book of mug shots, saying he was the gunman who'd shot Collazo in the face on the afternoon of June 19, 1996 after a brief altercation in the street. The eyewitnesses then picked Rosario out of a live line-up.
[Eye witness accounts have been shown to be very unreliable.]

But Rosario insisted he'd never killed anyone, and said he'd been in Florida the whole month of June. He gave a detailed voluntary statement to detectives, providing them with the names, phone numbers and addresses of his alibi witnesses.


Detectives, however, did not follow up with any of the alibi witnesses.


In 2014, as he worked on the "Conviction" series, Dateline producer Dan Slepian tracked down nine of the alibi witnesses that Rosario named the night he turned himself in. All said they had never been contacted by anyone from the NYPD or the Bronx District Attorney's office, which has also been confirmed in court documents.

Last week, that changed, when investigators from the Bronx DA's office went to Florida to interview alibi witnesses, law enforcement sources told NBC News.

Rosario challenged his conviction in state court in 2004, arguing that his original attorneys were ineffective by not sending an investigator to Florida. During that hearing, seven of the alibi witnesses came to New York and told a judge that Rosario had been in Florida. But the state judge ruled against him, saying that his lawyers had on the whole "represented Rosario skillfully and with integrity" and that their failure to send an investigator to Florida was the result of a "misunderstanding or mistake" that "was not deliberate."


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