WORCESTER (CBS) – A Taunton man walked free for the first time in 35 years Friday, after new DNA evidence cast his murder conviction into question.
“I Feel like a movie star,” said Gary Cifizzari, as news camera crews scrambled to capture the murder convict’s first steps of freedom in 35 years. Tom Cruise came to his mind. “He was one of my favorites.”
Earlier, inside the Worcester Courthouse, a judge stayed his sentence, releasing him to a Boston respite center. There, the 62-year-old can get medical support while attorneys fight to overturn his conviction in the 1979 murder of his great aunt in Milford.
They say three factors will eventually clear him: unreliable testimony was recanted, bite mark evidence was based on outdated science, and new DNA tests from the victim’s body doesn’t match his. The DNA does match another man, Michael Giroux, who was a suspect early on in the case. He is now dead.
“This is overwhelming,” said Radha Natarajan, executive director of the New England Innocence Project, which teamed up with the Ropes and Gray Law firm to advocate for Cifizzari.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Ropes and Gray attorney Kirsten Mayer. “Mr. Cifizzari should not have spent 35 years in prison, and we believe the sooner he can get out and start being reintegrated into the community at large, the better.”
When Cifizzari finally walked out Friday afternoon, fitted with a GPS ankle bracelet, he immediately stopped to look around.
“Once they are released, they suffer from symptoms that are similar to PTSD,” said Natarajan. “What they have been through in prison is very significant.”
So far, Cifizzari is taking his newfound freedom in stride. “I feel great,” he said.
His cousin, who was in the courtroom, left without commenting. The Worcester District Attorney has not said whether prosecutors plan to oppose his attorneys’ motion to overturn his conviction.