Angel Echavarria

21 Years

In 1994, two men armed with guns broke into the Lynn, Massachusetts home of two men. After the armed men entered they apartment, they bound one of the victim’s hands with a telephone cord and covered his face with a shirt. When the victim was able to untie his hands, he went to the bathroom to see that his brother had been shot and killed.

The victim identified one of the gunmen after looking through police photo books that contained roughly 1,200 pictures. He had described his assailants as stocky and clean shaven. Days later, at a barber shop, the victim saw Echavarria, who had a beard and was quite skinny. He then notified the police that Echavarria and the person he was with at the barber shop were the gunmen from his apartment. Echavarria was also identified by another witness, who claimed that he saw Echavarria holding a gun in the apartment. Echavarria’s lawyer never called him to the witness stand, and he was sentenced to life without parole.

In 2008, DNA testing was preformed on the telephone cords. Echavarria’s DNA was not a match for the two DNA profiles that were present. Echavarria was then granted a new trial in 2014. In his new trial, the judge noted that the eyewitness identification was questionable due to the witnesses drug problem at the time. He also stated that Echavarria’s original lawyer made mistakes by not having Echavarria testify after telling the jury he would. Charges were dropped against Echavarria on June 15th, 2015.

Ronjon Cameron

14 Years

In September of 1999, a woman in Pittsfield, Massachusetts was raped in her apartment. The woman claimed that Cameron, who was living in the apartment complex at the time, had attacked her when she went to retrieve something from the apartment he was staying in. She claimed that Cameron smelt of alcohol and told police that he assaulted her that day in the apartment. She did not tell anyone about the assault until two days later and did not see a physician until one week had passed.

Cameron was convicted mainly on the eyewitness account of the victim. However, there were also flaws in the DNA testimony given during trial. A less comprehensive test stated that the DNA did not exclude or include Cameron. A doctor that testified at trial stated that the woman most likely would not show external signs of trauma because she waited so long to go to the doctor. Though Cameron testified that he did not commit the crime, he was sentenced to 12 to 16 years.

Cameron’s case was reviewed by the New England Innocence Project and was then accepted by Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services Innocence Program. In 2012, more advanced tests were done on the victim’s underwear. This test showed that the DNA on the underwear came from a woman, and could not match Cameron. Even with this information, a judge denied his motion for a second trial. Cameron appealed to the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts in 2015 and the prosecution dismissed all charges.

Victor Rosario

32 Years

On March 15th of 1982, a fire consumed a three story building in Lowell, Massachusetts. Eight people lost their lives while bystanders desperately looked for ways to help. One of these individuals was 24-year-old Victor Rosario. In the midst of the tragedy, Rosario broke a window of the building in attempt to help, but the fire was so strong that it knocked him back. Two days later Rosario was the prime suspect. He spent five hours in an interrogation room while being held by police. At the end of this time Rosario signed a statement that stated he and two friends threw Molotov cocktails into the building after a drug deal.

An eyewitness stated that he saw someone who looked like they could have been throwing things into the home after a night of drinking. He could not identify Rosario in a lineup. He did, however, recognize Rosario when he saw his face on the front page of the newspaper. When questioned by police details of his story were inconsistent.

Rosario was convicted of arson and eight murders; he was sentenced to life in prison. Investigations by the police into the cause of the fire made up the majority of the evidence against Rosario, but we’re fundamentally flawed. Years after his conviction, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting began an investigation into the original findings. Their investigation found egregious flaws in the methods and conclusions that convicted Rosario. Among these discrepancies were findings that the police assumed from the start that the fire was arson, burn patterns that could not have conclusively been caused by arson, and no accelerants, bottle glass, or other physical evidence of the three Molotov cocktails was discovered at the scene.

There was also the issue of Rosario’s legal representation, who made little effort to refute the evidence provided. He did not call any expert witnesses to challenge the claims of the investigation.Just days before Rosario’s trial he was the driver involved a vehicular manslaughter charge, which resulted in the death of two people. On July 7, 2014, a Superior Court judge voided the conviction and ordered a new trial. Victor was released on Bond on July 10th.

Sean Ellis

22 Years

In September of 1993, a Boston Detective was shot five times in Roslindale, Massachusetts. Police Commissioner William Bratton stated that “there were some elements that would lead one to describe it as execution-style…an assassination”. Others also stated that the person who killed the officer may have been sending a message. Despite the large amount of individuals who may have retaliated against the officer’s rough tactics, the department pursued the crime as if it was a random act. 19-year-old Sean Ellis and a minor were picked up for the crime.

Police misconduct was a huge contributing factor to Ellis’ conviction. The first instance of this was the alleged tampering of the victim’s cell phone by a fellow detective. This same detective, along with other members of the force, presented an eyewitness that claimed she saw a young African-American man peering into the police car while she was buying a bar of soap. This witness was found to be the niece of a woman that one detective was living with. This woman could not identify Ellis in police photos at first, but after speaking to the detective who lived with her aunt, she was able to identify him. Police also stated that finger prints on the car belonged to Ellis.

Ellis had two trials that ended in a hung jury. However, at the end of his third trial, Ellis was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life without parole. Ellis’ defense team argued that there was a conflict of interest in regards to the detectives that worked on the case. The detectives were involved in long-term schemes including the falsification of search warrants in order to rob drug dealers. Because of police misconduct, and the fact that no physical evidence linked Ellis to the crime, Ellis was granted a new trial in 2014 and released on bail in June of 2015.

Raymond D. Tempest

23 Years

In 1982, a 22-year-old woman was beaten to death in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Almost ten years later, Raymond Tempest was convicted of her murder. The case against Tempest relied solely on the claims of four individuals who stated that Tempest had confessed to his involvement in the crime to them. There was no physical evidence presented against Tempest during the trial.

There were numerous factors that contributed to the wrongful conviction of Raymond Tempest, starting with the crime scene. It was seen that the basement where the crime occurred was never properly closed off by police and that the individual in charge of gathering evidence was completely unfamiliar with Bureau of Criminal Investigations procedures and how to handle the evidence. DNA evidence also showed that a hair found on the victim’s body did not belong to Tempest, but this was not taken into consideration during the trial. Police misconduct was also cited; Woonsocket police were seen to have been feeding information to the individuals who testified against Tempest. Despite these inconsistencies, Tempest was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 85 years in prison.

In July of 2015, a judge reversed the murder charges against Tempest. He cited the failure of police and prosecutors to turn over evidence showing Tempest’s innocence and the that improper interviews done by the police compromised evidence. Tempest was released on bail in August of 2015, but still awaits a full exoneration.

George Perrot

30 Years

The case built on a single strand of hair: In 1985, a 78-year-old woman in Springfield, Massachusetts was raped. 19-year-old George Perrot was arrested for the crime, despite the victim’s inability to identify him as her attacker. She described the man that attacked her as clean shaven, but at the time Perrot had a beard.

The victim was unable to identify Perrot in police lineups and continued to deny that he was her attacker in both of his trials. Because of this, prosecutors relied on a blood sample, gloves found at the scene, and a single strand of hair from the victim’s home. The faulty forensic procedures used on the hair sample became especially pressing in Perrot’s case for innocence. At the time of Perrot’s 1985 and 1992 trials, DNA testing was not available. Instead, hair analysis was used. This consisted of a microscopic hair comparison analysis where two hair samples were compared for color, shape, thickness and any other characteristics. The FBI stated in 2000 that hair analysis experts entered flawed testimony in 90% of cases that it reviewed.

In February of 2016, Judge Robert J. Kane overturned Perrot’s conviction, stating that the hair analysis was not supported by science and never should have been admitted as evidence. On February 11th, 2016, Perrot was released on his own recognizance. He still awaits his full exoneration.

Michael Seri

6.5 months

In 2001, Michael Seri was studying at a library in Newtown, Connecticut. Around the same time, a troop of Girl Scouts was visiting the library. One of the girls reported that a man sat down at her table and began to masturbate. The girl described the man as a dark-haired Hispanic. Librarians remembered that a man who had been studying in the area had left his phone number for books on hold, so they called and questioned him. That man, Seri, was arrested three months later. The girl, however, did not pick him out of a police line-up.

Seri was white with balding hair and sideburns, which did not fit the description the girl had given. Fingerprints were taken from a book that had been at the table, but Newtown police refused to send them to the national database. At trial, an expert concluded that he couldn’t rule out the fingerprints as Seri’s, and Seri was convicted.

While he was in prison, a friend of Seri’s saw a newspaper report that a man had recently been arrested for masturbating in front of a girl at the same library. The man also had a history of arrests for public indecency at several nearby libraries. Seri’s family requested that the fingerprints taken from the book be compared to the other man’s fingerprints. The two sets of prints turned out to be a match. In 2003, after his release, Seri was granted a new trial and prosecutors dismissed all charges.

Humberto Correia

2 years

In 1996, a fire was started at a photo processing plant owned by Humberto Correia. Firefighters extinguished the fire and determined that the fire was set by Correia, even though the insurance agency’s investigation showed that there was no evidence that the fire was intentional. Correia was federally charged with arson, mail fraud, and using arson to commit a felony.

He was convicted on the basis of financial troubles before the fire, and reports that he turned off the building’s fire alarm before the fire was started. The prosecution stated that Correia’s motive for setting the fire was to claim the $280,000 from his insurance agency in order to pay off the mortgages on his home and the business.

Before sentencing, a US District judge ordered a new trial on the grounds that Correia’s lawyers had provided an inadequate defense. They did not bring in the insurance investigator that recorded there was no evidence of arson or an independent arson expert, nor did they assert that the building had no fire alarm system. The defense also failed to object to the prosecution’s claim about Correia’s debts or show records of his financials in defense. In 2004, Correia received a new trial and was acquitted.

Harold Sullivan

4 years

In 1984, a man was killed in Fall River, MA. The man was stabbed to death, which was witnessed by three people. These eyewitnesses told police that the victim was seen with a 5’7” black man before the stabbing took place. One informant told police that two men, both white and about 6’0”, had confessed to a woman regarding the crime. When the police brought in the woman for questioning, she insisted that the two men had come over just after the time of the murder but then stated that neither had confessed to the murder.

Police interrogated the woman for six days, using threats and intimidation. These threats included taking her children away from her and charging her as an accessory to murder. Finally, she stated that the two men had confessed to her. In court, the woman testified to this and the police told a grand jury that the woman’s previous statement was not significantly different than her testimony. Her statements made up the bulk of Sullivan’s case. He was convicted even though the earlier eyewitness descriptions were not mentioned. In 1986 he was sentenced to life in prison.

After the conviction, the woman recanted her statements and revealed that the confession had been coerced. Her interview tape was examined, and the conviction was reversed. Sullivan was retried in 1990 and acquitted of all charges.

John Grega

18 Years

On Wednesday, August 22, John Grega was released from prison, after serving 18 years in prison for a crime he has always maintained that he did not commit. Mr. Grega was convicted in 1995 of killing his wife while they were on a family vacation with their 2 ½ year old son in West Dover, Vermont. Mr. Grega had no criminal record and no history of violence or mental illness, but police soon focused on him as a suspect in his wife’s murder.

There were no witnesses to the crime and no physical evidence introduced at trial; Mr. Grega was convicted on circumstantial evidence alone and was the first person in Vermont’s history to receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. On September 2, 2011 the Superior Court of Vermont directed the State to test previously untested biological samples.

On May 14, 2012 the Vermont Forensic Laboratory concluded that John Grega was excluded as the source of the major contributor of DNA in the most relevant sample. Prosecutors working on the case agreed that in light of the recent DNA results, Mr. Grega is entitled to a new trial. John Grega passed away in 2015 due to a car accident, just three years after he was released from prison.

Charles Wilhite

3 years

In December 2010, Charles Wilhite, along with Angel Hernandez, was convicted of the murder of Alberto Rodriguez outside a market in Springfield, Mass. Wilhite was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

According to prosecutors, Hernandez, the market’s owner, hired Wilhite to kill Rodriguez after a long-running feud. Their evidence was based primarily on eyewitness accounts placing Wilhite outside Hernandez’s store the day the shooting took place in 2008.

The first two witnesses gave different accounts of Wilhite’s alleged participation in the crime.

One, who was inside the Pine Street Market when the shooting took place, first claimed not to have seen anything. Later, however, she told the police she witnessed Hernandez run out of his store with a gun. She also remembered seeing two men wearing hoods by a fence near the market. When police showed her a photo lineup – albeit a lineup consisting only of lips and noses to mimic a suspect wearing a hood – the witness picked out the features belonging to Wilhite. She claimed she never got a good look at the man who actually shot the gun.

A second witness, however, identified Wilhite as the shooter a few months later.

After Wilhite and Hernadez were indicted for Hernandez’ murder, a third witness, Nathan Perez, came forward. Perez, who was in the store at the time of the shooting (but by then in jail awaiting his own trial) testified that he witnessed the crime firsthand. Hernandez, he claimed, had a gun, which he handed to Wilhite before exiting the market. Wilhite then fired three shots and ran.

After Wilhite and Hernandez were convicted and sentenced, Perez and another witness changed their testimony, opening up troubling questions about police misconduct and procedure.

While Perez was in prison, he claims detectives approached him on several occasions, asking him to identify the people he saw in the market on the day of the shooting. When Perez pointed out people other than Wilhite, he was told that he would be tried as an accessory to the crime. But if he ID’ed Wilhite, his pending charges would be dropped – the police, Perez alleges, were even helpful enough to write “shooter” on the photo of Wilhite he was supposed to identify.

Perez formally recanted his testimony in August 2011, eight months after Wilhite was convicted. The next May, a judge granted a new trial, though he didn’t buy Perez’s claims of police corruption. Without the testimony of two key eyewitnesses, and no physical evidence supporting Wilhite’s guilt, a jury deliberated for six hours before finding him not guilty.

I think what happened was the police made a decision early on that Charles was the guy they wanted, and the investigation, instead of being open… was about confirming that view.
— David Lewis, one of Wilhite’s lawyers, on New England Public Radio

Violet Amirault

10 years

In 1987, Violet Amirault was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of sexual abuse and rape. The crimes allegedly occurred at the preschool she owned and operated with her two children. The case hinged on the eyewitness accounts delivered by 19 of the preschool’s children.

When testifying at trial, the children had their backs to the accused and they had been coached by the prosecution prior to testifying. There was no physical evidence in the case, but the jury convicted her and her children on all charges. Amirault and her children were issued a new trial in 1995 due to inadequate defense because their lawyers did not object to the children testifying with their backs to the accused.

Upon receiving a new trial judge, Judge Robert A. Barton, who served as the original judge, dismissed himself from the case, calling it a “miscarriage of justice.” Amirault died in September, 1997, only months after being released on bail while awaiting a new trial. Shortly thereafter, the new trial judge posthumously dismissed all charges against the Amiraults.

Roland Chretien

3 years

In 2003, a woman claimed she was choked and forced to perform oral sex on Roland Chretien, the owner of a New Hampshire motorcycle shop. According to Chretien, their sexual relationship was consensual.

He was convicted at a bench trial and sentenced to 6 to 12 years in prison. During the trial, the woman was asked if she had ever falsely accused any men of this crime in the past; she answered no.

After his appeals in state courts failed, Chretien filed a habeas corpus petition and was granted an evidentiary hearing at which the victim admitted that she had falsely accused another man of choking her and making her perform oral sex prior to Chretien’s case. A US District Court judge granted his petition and ordered a retrial. Afterwards, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office decided not to pursue a new trial and dropped all charges.

Kenneth Conley

2 years, 10 months

One night in 1995, Kenneth Conley, a Boston police officer, responded to a foot chase following a reported shooting. The pursuit began in vehicles, as police officers followed the car containing the four shooting suspects. The pursuit continued on foot when all four suspects fled from their car and ran in different directions. This is when Kenneth Conley became involved in the pursuit. Two police officers saw a man climbing a nearby fence, caught, and viciously beat him. The man was actually an undercover Boston police officer, Michael Cox, who had joined the pursuit, and was left with severe head and kidney damage after the beating.

Federal authorities investigated the assault, but no officer would come forward and admit to seeing or taking part in the beating. Conley testified that he had run right past the beating in pursuit of another suspect, but alleged that he didn’t even notice the beating. The authorities felt that he was lying due to his proximity to the assault. Conley was indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. In 1997, he was convicted of both charges and sentenced to 34 months in prison and a $6,000 fine.

On December 23, 1998, a federal civil jury hearing a lawsuit brought by Cox found two other officers liable for the beating. Conley was found not liable. In 2000, authorities discovered that the prosecution may have withheld exculpatory evidence at Conley’s trial. He was issued a new trial shortly afterwards. The US Court of Appeals overturned that order, but in 2004 a US District Court judge again granted him a new trial. In 2007, the charges were finally overturned and Conley was allowed to rejoin the police department. He was compensated $647,000 for his time in jail.

Paul Courteau

15 years

In 1980, two men attacked a postal worker and locked her in the back of her mail truck. One of them then posed as a postal worker to gain them both entry to a jewelry store, which they robbed at gunpoint. One of the store’s owners saw the face of one of the robbers, whom he identified as Paul Courteau in a lineup and again at the trial.

Though the postal worker was unable to identify Courteau, an informant told the police that Courteau was the first robber to enter the store. The two identifications were enough to go forward with a trial. The jury convicted him of the robbery, and he was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

After Courteau served his full sentence, prosecutors realized that a mob boss had recently confessed to the robbery. Courteau and this mob boss looked very similar. The mob boss testified in front of the Rhode Island Superior Court, and Courteau’s conviction was vacated.

Humberto Guzman

4 years

In 1990, police found cocaine in the basement of a Boston apartment while executing a search warrant. A resident said that she had seen Humberto Guzman and two other men in the basement, so police searched his home. They found cash and a pager in his home. The pager received a message about someone trying to buy cocaine. Police asked the person who paged Guzman to set up a transaction for cocaine in return for a deal with the police.

After the transaction Guzman was arrested, but claimed that he was out of the country at the time of the sale and his cousin was using his name and apartment to conduct drug deals. The only people who witnessed the deal were the two buyers and the resident. Guzman’s attorney did not contact the two buyers because he had represented them in a previous case and didn’t want a conflict of interest, despite the fact that they would not have recognized Guzman as the dealer.The jury found Guzman guilty, which he appealed based on inadequate defense.

In 1994, he was granted a retrial, which was affirmed by the Massachusetts Appeals Court in 1996. Before the retrial, two of the police officers involved in the case were indicted on federal charges of planting evidence and lying. Guzman then filed a motion to dismiss, which the Supreme Judicial Court granted in 1997.

James Haley

37 years

In 1971, James Haley was arrested for the murder of his estranged wife’s housemate, David Myers. The man was murdered in the apartment he shared with his girlfriend, Gloria Curtis, along with her sister and Haley’s estranged wife, Brenda Haley. Both of these women testified that they had seen Haley nearby at the time of the murder. Curtis said she saw James Haley kill Myers.

James Haley’s sister testified that she was with him at the time of the murder, and there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. However, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1972. In 2006, Haley requested the records from his case. He found that the prosecution had failed to disclose that in initial interviews, both his estranged wife and her sister testified that they had not seen Haley in over a month.

In 2007, Haley filed a motion for a new trial, and the Supreme Judicial Court vacated the conviction. In 2008, the prosecution announced that they had lost all documents from the case, and the Supreme Judicial Court dismissed all charges.

Roland Phinney

16 years

In 1980, a Lowell woman was bludgeoned to death in her home with no leads on the perpetrator. Roland Phinney, the victim’s next door neighbor, was known for taking pictures of women, so he was brought in for questioning. Phinney was somewhat mentally challenged. After a twelve-hour unrecorded interrogation, a written confession emerged.

Phinney later recanted the confession, but it was still used in his trial. He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1990 despite no physical evidence. Years later, Phinney’s lawyer discovered that the police had questioned another man about the murder, because the man’s wife suspected that he had been the woman’s killer. The man had apparently been agitated in the weeks prior to the murder and had come home the night of the murder and immediately washed his own clothes, which was something he had never done before.

A Massachusetts Superior Court ordered a new trial in 2003. In 2008, Phinney was finally retried and acquitted.

Louis Santos

3 years

In 1983, three youths robbed a social worker and her mentally challenged client as they were entering a subway station in Boston. They struck the client in the head, so she got into her car to chase them. She cut off their car on the street, so they shot her and she eventually died from the wound. Police found two high school students near the scene who reported seeing three black males fleeing. They caught one black male, Louis Santos, who the students identified as one of the men from the crime scene.

The client that had been assaulted also positively identified Santos at the station, though he was not in a lineup and was in handcuffs at the time of the identification. Santos’s alibi was that he was buying and selling marijuana at the time of the crime, which is why he ran when the police approached. He had witnesses, but none were credible enough to testify. When asked to identify the assailant in court, the surviving victim picked out Santos’s brother, a white police officer, and a white attorney before identifying Santos. However, Santos was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

In 1988, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts overturned the conviction on the basis of procedural error in Santos’s identification, and because the victim was not given a competency hearing before testifying. Prosecutors retried the case but were not allowed to include the police station identification or an in-court identification from the victim. Santos was acquitted in 1990, and another man later admitted to committing the crime.

Michael O’Laughlin

10 years

Michael O’Laughlin was convicted in 2001 of nearly beating a woman to death. O’Laughlin was convicted largely on circumstantial evidence, such as living a few doors down from the victim. Also, the police found a baseball bat with his name carved into it. However, it was never proved that the baseball bat was even used in the beating.

The victim, however, could not identify her attacker and remembered nothing about the crime so could not serve as a witness. O’Laughlin was given a 35- year minimum sentence, despite no physical evidence linking him to the crime.

In 2005, the Massachusetts Appeals court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to establish guilt, and overturned O’Laughlin’s conviction. It was stated that the evidence in his case was based on speculation and inferences. Unfortunately, this decision was overturned on appeal. It wasn’t until 2009 that O’Laughlin won his appeal, and he walked out of prison in January 2010 having served almost ten years in prison.