NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A man who spent two decades in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit has asked a judge to keep his case open so he could prove his innocence.
As WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported, Richard Rosario’s unusual request came Friday after prosecutors said they were ready to drop charges but stopped short of fully exonerating him.
Rosario could have put everything behind him at that point, but he declined.
“I’ve been in prison fighting for the truth. I’ve been screaming,” he said. “I’m the only one being transparent.”
Rosario was arrested after two witnesses identified him from a police photo book as the man who’d shot 16-year-old George Collazo in the head after an exchange of words on a Bronx street on June 19, 1996. No forensic or physical evidence tied Rosario to the crime.
Rosario said he’d been over 1,000 miles away, staying with friends in Deltona, Florida at the time of the killing. After returning to the Bronx once he heard police were looking for him, he listed 13 people who’d seen him in Florida.
Police didn’t contact those people, according to Rosario’s current lawyers. And his own court-appointed attorneys at the time didn’t fully explore the alibi witnesses, either.
After phoning the witnesses proved difficult, his initial attorney got a judge’s OK to pay to send a private investigator to Florida, but the attorney later acknowledged she never did it. Another lawyer took over before Rosario’s trial, mistakenly thought the court had nixed funding for the investigator’s Florida trip and didn’t pursue it further, according to a 2010 appeals court decision.
The couple who said they’d hosted Rosario testified at his trial and said they had good reason to remember his presence and other details from the day of Collazo’s killing: Their first child was born the next day. But the trial prosecutor urged jurors to discount them because of their friendship with Rosario.
During Rosario’s appeal, a judge said additional alibi witnesses wouldn’t have added significantly to his defense. Rosario’s lawyers argue otherwise, noting that some of the witnesses weren’t close with Rosario and so might have been more difficult to discredit.
The victim’s father, Jorge Collazo, remained unconvinced of Rosario’s innocence Friday.
“If he goes around saying he’s innocent, you know what I’m saying? He’s lying to you and he’s lying to the public.”
The judge agreed to leave the case open through at least Aug. 30.
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