Friday, November 21, 2014

Bronx Man Jailed for 18 Years Despite 13 Alibi Witnesses

Unfortunately, not a unique situation. Some years ago a man was African-American man was convicted despite his Caucasian boss & co-workers testifying he was at work at the time of the crime (I think murder). Later, another it was proven that another man had committed the crime.

By Dan Slepian
Nov. 21, 2014

Richard Rosario sat down in the visiting room of an upstate New York prison and began to recount the same story he’s been telling since a summer evening nearly two decades ago.

“I turned myself in when I heard police were looking for me,” says Rosario, now 39. “I gave detectives everything they needed that first night to prove my innocence. They never investigated any of it.”

Rosario is now serving the 18th year of a 25-to-life sentence for a 1996 Bronx murder, even though he insists he was 1,000 miles away in Florida on the day of the crime -- and at least 13 alibi witnesses swear Rosario is telling the truth. Among the witnesses who can vouch for him are a sheriff’s deputy, a pastor, and a federal correctional officer.


While in Florida, he explained, he’d been staying with his friend John Torres and John’s wife Jeannine, who was pregnant. In fact, said Rosario, he was with them on June 19 when Jeannine went into labor. He’d celebrated with the couple and their friends the next day when the baby was born. If true, there was no way he could have pulled a trigger in the South Bronx on June 19. More than a dozen people could confirm his story.


Detectives, however, did not follow up with any of the alibi witnesses. With no evidence other than two stranger eyewitness identifications linking him to the murder, Rosario -- the 21-year-old father of a two- year-old boy and a four-year-old girl -- was arrested for murder.


After his arrest for murder, Rosario was sent to Riker’s Island, New York City’s mammoth detention center, to await trial. He met with his first court-appointed attorney while at Riker’s and begged for someone to speak with his alibi witnesses in Florida. The attorney asked a judge for money to send an investigator to Florida, and the request was granted.

But the lawyer never sent an investigator to Florida, and soon handed over the case to another lawyer. Due to an apparent miscommunication between the attorneys, the new lawyer believed that the judge had denied the request to pay for an investigator.

Either way, no investigator was sent to Florida, and the witnesses were never interviewed. Even so, two alibi witnesses -- John Torres and his wife Jeannine – did testify at Rosario's 1998 trial, saying Rosario had been in their home on the day of the murder, and that they remembered the day well because of the birth of their first child the next day. But the prosecution convinced the jury that those witnesses were not credible because they were Rosario's close friends. He was convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life.


Reporters from NBC’s “Dateline” recently tracked down nine of the alibi witnesses that Rosario named the night he turned himself in. All of those reached 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.

Today, John Torres is a sheriff’s deputy in Florida. In an interview with “Dateline,” he said “if it was just a random date, I wouldn’t be able to know. My son was born on the 20th of June. I am 100 percent sure Richard was in my living room when my wife went into labor the day before, on June 19th. He was staying in my house.”


Mike Serrano, a federal correctional officer, says he also remembers seeing Rosario at the Torres home when the baby came.

Dateline also tracked down retired NYPD detective Irwin Silverman, the officer who interviewed Rosario the night of his arrest in New York and took his statement detailing the 13 alibi witnesses. Silverman was not the lead detective and retired just a few months after the interview. Silverman told “Dateline”’s Lester Holt that he had no idea no one from the NYPD or Bronx DA’s office ever followed up with the alibi witnesses, and called it “disgraceful.”


But Rosario’s new lawyers at the Exoneration Initiative say they have now found new information that no judge or jury ever heard: a police report, which had been redacted 18 years ago at trial, in which the main eyewitness told someone he actually had not seen the shooter's face.


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