Victor Rosario spent over three decades in prison after being convicted of arson and murder for a fire that killed eight people, including five children, in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1982. However, his conviction was overturned in 2014 when it was deemed that his confession had not been voluntary.
Now, Rosario has been awarded $13 million in the largest settlement in New England history. “Today, this chapter ends, and a new chapter begins for him,” he said after the settlement was announced.
Rosario is now calling on the criminal justice system and universities to prepare lawyers, prosecutors, and investigators to prevent the wrongful conviction of others. His defence team had argued that he was at the scene of the fire attempting to rescue individuals, but he was arrested and charged with arson and murder soon after the blaze. Rosario claimed that he had tried to communicate his innocence through his eyes but nobody believed him at the time.
According to Rosario’s lawyers, he was coerced into confessing by authorities who manufactured evidence to solve the high-profile case quickly. They alleged that there was no physical evidence of arson and that investigators were particularly interested in Rosario’s claim that he had thrown a Molotov cocktail into the building.
One of the most challenging things for Rosario was explaining his circumstances to his mother, who visited him in prison from Puerto Rico. She passed away in 2007, and he recalled the sadness of seeing her leave the prison during her last visit. However, Rosario has learned to forgive those who wronged him, and he hopes to help others in need.