Man who spent 32 years in prison for murders he didn't commit gets awarded $13 million
| Last updated
Featured Image Credit: CBS Boston
A man who spent 32 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit has been awarded $13 million in compensation.
Victor Rosario was arrested at the age of 24 back in 1982 before being convicted of arson and murder for a fire that resulted in the deaths of eight people, including five children in Lowell, Massachusetts.
He made a confession at the time, but his conviction was eventually overturned in 2014 when the appeals court came to suspect that they had not been voluntary.
He was released from prison after that, before the district attorney decided that the case would not be brought to another trial.
After the settlement was announced, Rosario said: "Today, this chapter is ending and a new chapter begins for me.
"Nothing can ever compensate for those years taken from me and I'm asking the criminal justice system, the universities, to prepare lawyers, prosecutors and investigators to do their very best to not let what happened to me be the future of one more wrongly convicted individual."
Rosario’s legal team had argued that he was in the house on the day of the fire attempting to save people.
However, just hours after the fire at an apartment building in Lowell, he was arrested for arson and murder.
Standing outside the courtroom in Boston on Wednesday (3 May), Rosario told reporters: “I tried with my eyes to communicate I'm an innocent man. Nobody believed it in that time.”
It has taken years for them to believe it.
Before being sentenced to eight concurrent life sentences, Rosario was coerced into a confession by police, according to his lawyers.
One of those attorneys, Mark Loevy-Reyes, said: “There has never been any physical evidence that there was an arson on Decatur Street.
“Not one shred of evidence yet, a couple hours afterwards, investigators determined that it was arson and they had to find a suspect.
“They coerced a confession after keeping him up all night.
“Victor was traumatized because he had tried to save children from the burning fire.
“He heard their screams. He hadn't slept.
“And after an all-night interrogation, they told Victor ‘if you sign this piece of paper, you can go’.”
Rosario said: “It was basically a language issue, I don’t understand, they give me a piece of paper to sign thinking that I'm going home.
“And when I turn around, the home was for me the handcuffs in my hands.”
Rosario’s lawsuit argued that the police and fire investigators had fabricated evidence in order to ‘solve’ the high-profile case quickly.
They particularly focused on the claim that Rosario threw a Molotov cocktail into the building, despite there being no physical evidence for this, or any incendiary device or accelerant, at the scene.
Rosario said that the hardest part for him was explaining the situation to his mother, who travelled from Puerto Rico to see him inside.
She died in 2007.
“My mother traveled from Puerto Rico not knowing the language, getting into Massachusetts, getting into the prison system, not knowing. Every time that my mother asked me, when you coming home, I explain to my mom, I'm doing life sentence, I don’t know, but she don’t understand that,” he said.
“The last time that she went to prison and asked me, when you coming home because this is going to be my last visit to you.
“And I can see in her eyes they pop out want to cry and to see her go out of the visiting room knowing that my mom, I’m never gonna see her again.”
He added: “One of the things for me to be able to continue moving forward is basically to learn how to forgive.
“Because when you forgive, you liberate the person that do damage to you and I learned that.
“I forgive because if I don’t forgive who do wrong to me then my life will be always in prison.
“And I don't want that, I want to be free.
“What I would like to do is basically trying to help those that need help.
“Right from the beginning, that's what I'm trying to do. It was trying to help.”