A man who served 20 years in prison on a wrongful conviction, despite having 13 alibi witnesses, was awarded $5m by a jury in a federal court in New York on Thursday.
Richard Rosario wasconvicted in 1998 for the fatal shooting of George Collazo in 1996 in the Bronx. However Rosario claimed he was in Florida at the time, and had 13 alibi witnesses for his defense.
Three eyewitnesses testified in court in the trial. Rosario was “identified” as the shooter by two people but a third witness said even though he may have been able to identify the suspect, it was not Rosario.
The other two witnesses flagged Rosario as a suspect based on photos, a lineup and open court during the trial. Lineups have a long, problematic history of leading to mistaken arrests in New York, and “mistaken identification” is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the country.
In 2017, Rosario filed a civil lawsuit for wrongful conviction and imprisonment against the City of New York and the detectives involved in the case.
“No amount of money can give me all those precious years back. They ruined my life,” Rosario told Dan Slepian, whose investigation since he found out about the issue in 2013 led to the conviction being vacated.
Patricia Miller, chief of the city law department’s special federal litigation division, told NBC that they “respect” the verdict, but defended the witnesses and the officers involved in the case.
The Guardian has reached out to the US attorney’s office and the NYPD for further comments.