Gary Cifizzari Released from Prison after Being Incarcerated for
More Than 35 Years for a Crime he did Not Commit
WORCESTER – July 12, 2019 – The New England Innocence Project and a pro bono Ropes & Gray litigation team announced today 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.
About the New England Innocence Project
The New England Innocence Project (NEIP) is a non-profit committed to correcting and preventing the wrongful convictions of innocent men and women in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maine. Through pro bono legal and investigative services, education, systemic reform efforts, and support as exonerees rebuild their lives, NEIP is devoted to ensuring justice within the criminal legal system. Visit New England Innocence Project at NewEnglandInnocence.org for more information and to get involved.
About Ropes & Gray
Ropes & Gray is a preeminent global law firm with approximately 1,400 lawyers and legal professionals serving clients in major centers of business, finance, technology and government. The firm has offices in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul, and has consistently been recognized for its leading practices in many areas, including private equity, M&A, finance, asset management, real estate, tax, antitrust, life sciences, health care, intellectual property, litigation & enforcement, privacy & cybersecurity, and business restructuring.