Richard Rosario Is Still Fighting to Prove His Innocence After 17 Years in Prison

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Richard Rosario has been in prison for 17 years. His daughter was three years old and his son was two when he was convicted of murdering a man in the Bronx on June 19, 1996. One of the hardest parts of these 17 years was figuring out how the kids should learn about where their dad was. At first their mother Minerva told them that their father was in the military and based in Japan. He couldn't come home right now but he would be home soon, she told them. "I didn't want them to have this portrayal of their father as a criminal," she says.

But by the time Amanda Rosario was 12, she'd caught on that her mother was hiding something and she told her mother so. Minerva decided to tell her: "your father is in prison for a crime he didn't commit." Amanda didn't understand.

"She would ask the same question that I ask," says Minerva. "'Why is he there if he didn't do it?'"

The victim was a man named George Collazo. Minutes before the shooting, Collazo and a friend had gotten into an altercation on Turnbull Avenue with two other men. One of the men, Collazo's friend told police, returned and opened fire.

Collazo's friend and one other witness picked Rosario's picture from a police photo book and identified him as the shooter. (Rosario's mug shot was on file because of a robbery conviction on his record.) No other evidence linked Rosario to the crime.

Richard Rosario
When Rosario, then-21-years-old, heard that police were looking for him, he turned himself in. He claimed that he was in Florida at the time of the murder. He and Minerva had been planning to get married and move away from New York and the influences that had pulled Rosario to the streets throughout his teenage years. He had friends in Florida and Minerva had family there, she said, so he took a trip down to try to find a job there.

John Torres and his wife Jeannine testified at trial that Rosario was at their home in Dentona, Florida on June 19, 1996. They remembered the specific date because their child was born the next day. Jeannine said that she'd been angry that John was staying out late partying with Rosario when she was so close to labor.

Prosecutors argued that the Torres' were lying to protect their friend. The jury apparently agreed and found Rosario guilty.

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