A Massachusetts man who spent 34 years behind bars for a killing he maintains he did not commit has been freed while the courts determine whether he should get a new trial.
Thomas Rosa Jr., 59, was released last week, his attorneys at the New England Innocence Project and the Boston College Innocence Program said in a statement Monday.
He was freed by a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court based in part on the strength of DNA evidence obtained after his conviction and evidence undermining eyewitness identifications in his case, the attorneys said.
That 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,” Justice Frank Gaziano wrote in his decision last Wednesday.
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Rosa was released on his own recognizance to his family with certain conditions, including that he not leave the state, his attorneys said.
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office helped secure Rosa’s release through a petition to Gaziano saying the motion for postconviction relief has merit, he presents no danger to the public, and his age and underlying health conditions put him at risk of death or serious injury if he were to contract COVID-19 in prison.
The state Superior Court is currently considering his motion for new trial. Rosa’s attorneys and state prosecutors are expected to submit additional briefings in the coming months and there is no timetable for a decision.
Rosa was convicted of the 1985 killing of Gwendolyn Taylor, an 18-year-old nurse’s aide.
He was tried three times. One ended in a mistrial, and one conviction was overturned before he was convicted in 1993.