The Bronx District Attorney’s office has approved the release of a local man who spent 20 years behind bars for a murder he and his lawyers say he didn’t commit—a move that only adds to the growing list of convictions recently rejected by New York City prosecutors.
On Tuesday morning, applause reportedly filled the courtroom at the Bronx Supreme Court as Justice Robert Torres announced his decision to release Richard Rosario from custody. Rosario has been in prison since 1996 for the murder of Bronx resident George Collazo despite the fact that he has long maintained he was “1,000 miles away in Florida” the day the crime was committed, according to NBC’s Dateline.
The decision to release Rosario from custody follows Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark’s conclusion that the defendant “had not received a fair trial and should be set free” and comes just days after a Brooklyn judge reversed the murder conviction of Innocence Project client Andre Hatchett. In Rosario’s case, however, the district attorney has not yet asked for the charges to be dropped, indicating the possibility of a retrial as his office continues to investigate the charges.
Addressing the courtroom upon the judge’s decision, Rosario voiced his relief and, notes NBC, once again reiterated his innocence in the face of his decades-long incarceration.
“I’ve been in prison for 20 years for a crime I didn’t commit,” he declared. “My family didn’t deserve this. I didn’t deserve this, and nor did the family of the victim.”
The Exoneration Initiative–a member of the Innocence Network–represented Rosario throughout the proceedings and, over the course of a five-year period, conducted a reinvestigation into his case; filed two lawsuits against the New York Police Department under the Freedom of Information Law; and brought a motion to exonerate Rosario based on actual innocence, newly discovered evidence, police and prosecutorial misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel.
Rosario’s case has also been closely followed by the Innocence Project, which filed two amicus briefs in Rosario’s favor.
Rosario’s release also coincides with the launch of Conviction – a new Dateline NBC streaming series which explores the story behind his incarceration and documents a producer’s two-year investigation into “the long and twisted history” of his case.
Conviction launches today and can be viewed at NBCNews.com.