Gary Cifizzari Released from Prison after Being Incarcerated for More Than 35 Years for a Crime that he did Not Commit
The New England Innocence Project and a Ropes & Gray litigation team working on a pro bono basis announced on July 12, 2019 that Gary Cifizzari has been released after serving 35 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit.
The court’s decision today allows Mr. Cifizzari to be released while the court considers his Motion for a New Trial. Mr. Cifizzari’s release is in large part due to the strength of the evidence that he has presented in support of his Motion, which Mr. Cifizzari’s legal team filed on May 31, 2019 after newly discovered DNA evidence affirmed his innocence. Mr. Cifizzari was wrongfully convicted in Worcester County Superior Court of the 1979 murder of his great aunt, 75-year-old Concetta Schiappa. His brother Michael Cifizzari, also convicted, died in prison before the new DNA evidence could exonerate him.
“We are grateful to the Court for granting our Motion for Stay of Execution of Sentence while it decides Mr. Cifizzari’s Motion for New Trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence,” said Ropes & Gray litigation and enforcement partner Kirsten Mayer. “We’re pleased that the Court recognized the facts of Mr. Cifizzari’s case in making the decision today.”
“Today, Gary Cifizzari finally saw justice. It took 35 years, and he never gave up hope. We will not stop fighting for him until this wrongful conviction is overturned,” said Radha Natarajan, executive director of the New England Innocence Project.
Newly tested DNA evidence from the murder scene, including semen and saliva found on the victim’s nightgown, excludes Mr. Cifizzari and also identifies Michael Giroux as the true perpetrator of the crime through a CODIS DNA match. In addition, the Commonwealth’s case against Mr. Cifizzari was built entirely on flawed bitemark comparison testimony, which the scientific community has since condemned as lacking any scientific basis. Mr. Giroux, now deceased, was originally a suspect in the case and questioned by police, but was never charged and later went on to commit other crimes.
In the coming months, Mr. Cifizzari’s legal team and the Commonwealth will submit additional briefing. Going forward, Mr. Cifizzari will take small steps to start rebuilding his life after decades of wrongful incarceration, and he has a growing team of supporters that will help him do that.
Led by Ms. Mayer, the Boston-based Ropes & Gray team on the matter includes counsel Kevin Angle and associates Yana Grishkan, Cole Goodman, Hannah Vail, and Alyssa Fixsen.
For more information about The New England Innocence project, click here.