Victor Rosario was caught in 1982 at the age of 24 and convicted of arson and murder for a fire that killed eight people, including five kids, in Lowell, Massachusetts.
He gave a confession at the time, but his conviction was overturned in 2014 when the appeals court concluded that it was not voluntary.
After that, he was freed from jail before the district attorney chose not to pursue the matter further.
Rosario has now been given the largest settlement in New England history, collecting $13 million after spending more than three decades in prison.
Today, this chapter ends, and a new chapter begins for him, Rosario remarked after the settlement was revealed.
Nothing can ever substitute for those years taken from him, and he is asking the criminal justice system, the universities, to prepare lawyers, prosecutors, and investigators to do their very best not to let what occurred to him be the future of one more wrongly convicted person.
Rosario’s defence team contended that he was there in the home on the day of the fire, trying to rescue individuals.
But he was arrested for arson and murder just hours after the fire at an apartment block in Lowell.
He tried with his eyes to communicate he is an innocent man, Rosario told reporters outside the courthouse in Boston on Wednesday (3 May). Nobody believed it back then.
It has taken them years to believe it.
According to his defenders, Rosario was pressured into a confession by authorities before being convicted to eight consecutive life terms.
There has never been any physical evidence that there was an arson on Decatur Street, claimed one of those solicitors, Mark Loevy-Reyes.
Despite the fact that there was no evidence, authorities concluded that it was arson and that they needed to find a suspect a few hours later. After keeping him awake all night, they coerced a confession. Victor was traumatised as he attempted to save kids from a raging fire. He could hear their shouts. He hadn’t gotten any sleep. And after an all-night interrogation, they told Victor, ‘If he sign this piece of paper, he can go’.
It was basically a language issue, he does not understand, they give him a piece of paper to sign thinking he is going home, Rosario said. And when he turned around, the home was for him the handcuffs in his hands.
Rosario’s complaint claimed that police and fire investigators manufactured evidence in order to quickly ‘solve’ the high-profile case.
They were especially interested in Rosario’s assertion that he tossed a Molotov cocktail into the building, despite the fact that there was no physical proof of this, or any incendiary device or accelerant, at the site.
The most difficult thing, according to Rosario, was clarifying the circumstances to his mother, who went from Puerto Rico to visit him inside.
She passed away in 2007.
His mother travelled from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts, unaware of the language, getting into the prison system, not knowing. Every time his mother asks him, ‘when is he coming home?’ he explain to her, he serving a life sentence, he does not know..
The last time she went to prison, she asked him, when is he coming home because this is her last visit to him?
And he can see tears welling up in her eyes as she walks out of the visiting room, knowing that he’ll never see his mother again.
He said that one of the things for him to be able to continue moving forward is basically learning how to forgive.
Since when one forgive, one free the person who has done one harm, and he learned that.
He forgive as if he does not forgive those who have wronged him, his life will be spent in prison. And he does not want that; he wants freedom. What he’d like to do is simply try to help those who need it. That’s what he has been attempting to achieve from the start. It was attempting to help.