Long Walk to Freedom: Chelsea’s Tommy Rosa Released After 34 Years of Wrongful Incarceration

Walking down the steps from MCI-Norfolk jail to freedom after 34 years of
being wrongly incarcerated for a 1980s murder in Boston, Chelsea’s Tommy
Rosa Jr. looked ahead and saw his son for the first time without a barrier or
bars between them – and they embraced also for the first time.

When he first went to prison awaiting trial, his son Manny Rosa, had just
been born. When they met outside MCI-Norfolk last week following a decision by Supreme Judicial Court Justice Gaziano, Manny Rosa was a grown man.

Tommy Rosa Jr. hugging his son, Manny Rosa, last Thursday, Oct. 15, after being freed from MCI-Norfolk prison. Rosa served 34 years for a murder in Dorchester that he did not commit, and was found to be innocent of this month due to a review of the DNA testing by the New England Innocence Project and the BC Innocence Project.
A booking photo of Rosa after his arrest in the 1980s, and a photo of him after being released last week. He was wrongfully imprisoned for 34 years.

“His son was born in 1986 when Tommy was incarcerated so their entire
relationship has been with Mr. Rosa in prison,” said Rosa’s Attorney Radha
Natarajan of the New England Innocence Project.

“His son was the first person he saw when he walked out of MCI-Norfolk.
His son is 34 now.” Rosa was convicted of the 1985 murder of Gwen Taylor in Dorchester, having been tried three times for the crime, but had always
maintained his innocence and cooperated completely with police.

But despite that, he wasapparently misidentified by two eyewitnesses and
in an era prior to scientific DNA evidence. So it was, the New England Innocence Project decided to bring in the Boston College Innocence Program to challenge the case. A decision on October 14, 2020, by Justice Gaziano, acting as the Single Justice for the Supreme Judicial Court, allows
Rosa to be freed while the Superior Court considers his Motion for New Trial. His attorneys, Radha Natarajan of the New England Innocence Project and Charlotte Whitmore of the Boston College Innocence Program, filed the
Motion for New Trial on June 29, 2020, presenting numerous arguments why his convictions should be overturned.

Justice Gaziano wrote that “the DNA evidence, if correct, in conjunction with the Defendant’s other claims, could well establish that ‘confluence of factors’ that would indicate that a new trial is required.” On October 15, Rosa was freed after being incarcerated for 34 years on a crime he did not commit. Rosa’s release is based in part on the strength of the DNA evidence obtained after his conviction and scientific evidence undermining the eyewitness identifications in the case.

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