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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  January 8, 2017 3:00pm-4:01pm PST

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my name is dan sleppian, a producer with nbc news where i worked for 20 years. i produced all kinds of stories, but for more than a decade, one issue has both haunted and consumed me. wrongful convections. >> justice denied.
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>> over the years i've investigated many claims of innocence. >> how are you doing, dan? >> sometimes my reporting has actually helped free innocent people. the more these stories i do, the more people i hear from who say they too are innocent. >> the mail comes in all of the time. >> many of these people are probably lying. but sometimes i'll hear about a case that sounds so outrageous that makes me wonder what if it's true, which is exactly why i looked into this story you're about to hear. >> we're on our way to sullivan county correctional facility in new york. it is about two hours north of manhattan. on our way to see an inmate by the name of richard rosario. richard rosario is serving 25 years to life for the 1996 murder of a 17-year-old named george colatzo in the south
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bronx. i heard about rosario from another inmate i had done a story about. the headline of this case is that richard says while this murder was happening in the bronx, he was in florida. the first thing i do in an investigation like this is visit the inmate. we're going to look him in the eye, as will you, and we'll see what he has to say. sullivan correctional facility is home to nearly 500 maximum security inmates, including serial killer david berkowitz, the son of sam, and richard rosario, who seems a bit edgy when we meet. don't be nervous. i'm saying that too, not to be nervous. as we're about to start talking, he asks if the corrections officer can leave the room. and also has to be for the interview when we speaking about my case, because, you know -- i tell the officers i don't mind being alone with him. whoever is deciding, i'm totally fine. rosario explains to me in prison you keep to yourself and he doesn't want anyone, including
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the officers, knowing his business. >> just listen in to our conversation. >> i start by giving him my ground rules. don't bother lying because i check everything out. all i care about are the facts. so if you're actually innocent, the facts can't hurt you. the facts can only help you. >> absolutely. >> rosario tells me he didn't know george, and he certainly didn't kill him. he says the first time he even heard about the murder was two weeks after the crime. he says he was in florida, called home, and heard police were looking for him. >> as soon as my mother told me, and i spoke to my sister, i spoke to my wife, i found this out, i mean, i just came back. >> and when he came back, he says, he voluntarily called the nypd, telling them they made a mistake. >> 15 minutes later they arrive at my mother's house. >> what did you say? >> i said, i was in florida. >> what did they say? >> they say we still got to take you down to the precinct and question you down there.
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and i left with them. >> detectives took rosario to the 43rd precinct in the bronx, where he says he gave them a list of witnesses, who could confirm he was in florida. you gave them their phone numbers. >> phone numbers, addresses. >> and gave them all of this first day. >> everything. >> first day ? >> the first day. he tells me he thought that would be it. cops call the witnesses, witnesses confirm his story and he goes home to his family. this is the way it is supposed to work. you didn't commit a crime. you're in another state when this happens, i mean, how does this supposed to work? >> but here's the thing, the detectives had two eyewitnesses, who said they were certain rosario was the killer. they look at the photographs. >> yes. >> and somebody picks you out. >> yes. >> they said you were the guy. >> well, it got to that point, i really can't say. >> prosecutors say they because they picked the right guy. >> well, you know, they're going
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to say they got the right guy. >> well, it was enough for the detectives and the bronx district attorney. with years late, a jury convicted him of murder and sentenced him to 25 years to life. so far, he served 20 of those years. >> i just -- i still don't understand what i'm doing in prison. i'm innocent. >> if he's telling the truth, think about all that's been lost. rosario was 20 when he was arrested. today, he's 40. he shared this picture with his wife and kids taken in the months before his arrest. today, amanda and richard jr. are adults. they visit their dad in prison a couple of times a year, this is what they look like today. >> -- to see our dad, we're excited. i haven't seen him in six months since his birthday. >> you know, my family, my children, my life, right in front of me, just taken away. >> after our interview, i'm not quite sure what to believe.
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maybe he's guilty. maybe he's not. but as i leave the prison, i know i want to keep going. i want to find out if those alibi witnesses really exist. first, i need to learn about the crime. and how it all went down. >> turns and shoots the kid point blank. >> what's up, man? >> and it is bang. >> that's next. on "conviction." companies in the country. after expanding our fiber network coast to coast. these are the places we call home. we are centurylink. we believe in the power of the digital world. the power to connect. and that's what drives us everyday.
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after speaking with richard rosario, i'm not quite sure what to believe. >> i'm innocent. and i'll always be innocent, no matter what the justice system does. >> yes, i hear this a lot from inmates. and i often don't believe their claims. why? but something about rosario's story is compelling me to push forward. maybe it is how simple it all seems. i mean, he was either in florida when this murder was happening in new york, or he wasn't.
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we're on our way to the bronx now to where george collazo was murdered. first, i need to learn the details of the crime. i get a hold some of police reports. but there is nothing like visiting the crime scene. i like to see for myself where people were standing, what they could see, what they could hear. to help me make sense of it all, i knew just who to ask. there is a lot of cop speak in the pages that bobby can help decipher for me. bobby is former nypd homicide detective bobby delaroto. he was a cop in the bronx. i first met bobby in 2002, that's him in the hat, i'm the guy to the right with the headphones around my neck. back then, i was working on a documentary for "dateline" following bobby as he fought to free two innocent men who spent 15 years in prison for a murder they did not commit.
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bobby became so frustrated with the case that he resigned from the job he loved. >> good luck. do something about with your life, man. all right? >> i learned a lot from bobby. this is one of those honest salt of the earth guys and he agrees to help me. >> i'm going to find you. bobby hadn't heard of the case, so i sent him the police reports i collected and after he reviewed them, we meet up in the south bronx, in a parking lot near the corner of white plains road and turnville avenue. you look older since last time we did this. how you doing? strau strangely enough, almost 19 days to the day of the murder and even the same time of day, 1:30 in the afternoon. so explain to me what happened. how did this go down? >> starts right around here. >> this is where the initial contact happened. >> bobby explains that four people were involved with this. the victim, a 17-year-old kid named george collazo, and his friend michael sanchez, who were walking through the parking lot.
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and two other men walking toward them. according to the police reports, it is a bump, words passed. i'm the victim. so i'm going this way. and -- so there was a brief confrontation, and some smack talk. according to the reports, it was a random encounter. >> the victim, george collazo, and his friend, michael sanchez, walked down here, and make a left. >> the reports showed that the other two men split up, one went to a car, while the shooter followed collazo and sanchez down this side street. the shooter said something to george, and he turned around. >> something is said and he turns and shoots the kid point blank. >> what's up, man? >> and it's bang. >> where was he shot? >> in the face. after the shooting, the shooter went back down the street, got into the car, makes a u-turn and goes southbound on white plains road. >> cops and an ambulance arrive within minutes. george collazo is rushed to the hospital, where attempts to
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revive him failed. police comb the area for any evidence, they didn't have much to go on. >> unfortunately 1996, 1996, 20 years ago. now there is cameras everywhere. you see three cameras on that building there. >> so no video, but there were two eyewitnesses. the first, the man walking with the victim, his friend michael sanchez. the second eyewitness was robert davis, a porter who was sweeping just a few feet away from the shooting. >> so they take michael sanchez and robert davis back to the house. >> they describe the shooter as a hispanic man in his early 20s. >> at that point, you have a physical description, male hispanic, and you have your books. >> books is cop lingo for binders full of mug shots that each precinct keeps of people who have been arrested in that area. michael sanchez, the victim's friend, said he saw the shooter in one of those books, and pointed to a picture of richard
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rosario. >> sanchez picks out rosario. >> that afternoon? >> after the incident. >> later that evening, the porter, robert davis, also points out rosario's picture. two eyewitnesses, not good for rosario. and the fact that his mug shot was in that book meant he had been arrested before. i asked him about that. why was your picture in there? >> for robbery. >> who did you rob? >> i got caught with credit cards. >> you got caught with credit cards, you robbed somebody of their credit cards? >> of course, of course. >> i had already done a little homework and actually knew about rosario's criminal past, including acts he committed as a juvenile. but i want to test him to see if he'll come clean about it. and he does. >> i was your regular run of the mill hoodlum. and it is something that i regret. but it is a part of my life that i can't avoid or deny, you know. i was a kid growing up in the bronx, and i learned the wrong
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habits. but that doesn't make me a murderer. and that doesn't make it right for me to be in prison for a crime i didn't commit. >> now, this is where things get tricky for me because he sounds like he's being honest. but maybe i'm being played. admit to the robbery, deny the murder, fool the reporter. but if this was a lie, it was such a bold-faced one. he said he was in florida at the time of the crime. literally a thousand miles away. and, remember, he said that on the night he turned himself in 20 years ago, he gave detectives a list of alibi witnesses who could confirm his story. >> their phone numbers, their addresses. >> how many names of witnesses did you -- >> 13. 13. >> 13 alibi witnesses? that sounds like a lot to me. but when i read the place reports, i didn't see any interviews with any alibi witnesses. i'm thinking that if rosario gave police 13 alibi witnesses,
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surely a detective would have followed up. back at the crime scene, i asked bobby about that. >> if the suspect, when you pick him up says i was in florida, and here is some information, do you look into that? >> i would say you should. maybe the detectives didn't have the time. it was busy back then. i hate to say this too, comes down to dollars and cents. an arrest, case is closed, move on. >> are you kidding me? but i'm a detective, i need to find out if this is true, i need to go to florida. >> ask the d.a.'s office and see if they'll pay for you. >> you're kidding. >> you got two eyewitnesses, detective that say this guy did it. >> but he said he has 13 i'll buy witne alibi witnesses. >> so tell him to put it on his dime and tell them to come on up. >> so i decide to put a trip on our dime, to find out for myself. that's next on "conviction."
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the long lasting scent of gain flings. now that i have a better sense of how george collazo was murdered, i start to collect more documents like trial transcripts and court filings in the case against richard rosario. there are thousands of pages, and i need to have a good sense of them. so i've read through a lot of this paper work and here's what i know for sure. the case against rosario was based solely on those two eyewitnesses. there was no forensic evidence, no physical evidence against him, and there was no murder weapon ever recovered. i also find out here that rosario was telling me the truth about at least two things. he did turn himself in that
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night and he did give a statement to police where he names 13 people who he said could confirm he was in florida, and he also gave them a copy of a bus ticket showing that he had taken a grey hound bus from florida. i want to find the alibi witnesses and see what they remember. so i pack up my gear and head south. so here we are in florida, we just got here. what we're doing here is we're on our own journey. is he telling the truth? was he really down here on june 19th, 1996, when this murder was happening in the bronx? i'm in jupiter, florida, heading to the first two names on rosario's list of alibi witnesses. john torres and his wife janine. i called earlier so they're expecting me. >> hey. >> i wonder how they'll possibly remember a single day nearly two decades earlier. >> you don't like cameras? you don't want to be on camera.
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>> no. >> took a little convincing to get janine to go on camera. why are you talking to us? >> i know he was in my house. i can't live with myself knowing if there is any way i can help him, at least to tell the truth. >> she says she'll never forget both richard rosario and the month of june, 1996. >> i was pregnant with my first son. we were living in a small apartment, richard was down from new york, staying with us. >> janine tells me her husband john and rosario were friends and she didn't like it. >> you remember clearly him staying with you? >> yes, trust me. i remember that. >> why do you say it that way? >> because i did not want him in my house. he was -- they were always out, hanging out, partying. >> even though she feels that way about rosario, janine says she knows he was in her living room on june 19th, 1996. and there is a specific reason why she remembers. she was hours away from going into labor with her first child. you were home on the 19th? >> i went to my doctor's office.
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when i came back home, it was midday, he was on the sofa with my husband and i was telling him that the doctor wants me to go to the hospital. >> midday. i get goosebumps when i hear that. because it was midday on june 19th that the crime happened in new york. i also speak with her husband, john, who, like his wife, clearly remembers that day back in 1996. and there is something about john that is interesting, especially for an alibi witness. he's a palm beach county sheriff's deputy. >> my son was born on june 20th, 1996. and they're claiming that richard killed someone on june 19th, 1996. which that's physically impossible because he was in my house when we were leaving for my wife to go to the hospital to be induced. i'm looking at him, talking to him, june 19th, june 20th. it is 1,000% impossible for richard to have committed that crime. there is no way. he can't be in new york and
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florida at the same time. >> the night he turned himself in, he gave a statement to the police and gave them alibi -- names and addresses and phone numbers including yours. did anybody ever call you? >> not a single phone call. not a single phone call, not a letter. >> at the time, john wasn't a cop yet. he was 21 and unemployed. >> nobody. no one from nypd called me to confirm if what he was saying was true. >> after rosario's arrest, when john depos john didn't hear from the police, he said he called rosario's attorney but didn't hear back for more than a year. sometime before the trial, rosario's attorney called asking john and janine to testify. and they did. >> i testified at richard's trial. but it fell on deaf ears. they didn't believe anything i said or that anyone was saying when they were telling them that he was in florida. >> at the end of our conversation, john does something that would stay with me. he asks his son to join us, the one who was born the day after
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the murder. >> this is my oldest son. scary part about it is this is how much time that has gone by that richard has been in jail. you know. from the time that he was born, this is how long it's been. >> john and janine seem so credible to me. but 12 jurors didn't believe their testimony. and when he testified in his own defense, the jury didn't believe rosario either. prosecutors painted him as a liar, saying rosario failed to disclose that a couple of months before the murder he had spent a few weeks in jail on a robbery charge. obviously there is more to the story and it is important that i keep an open mind. and that's what i'm doing, working my way down the rest of rosario's list of alibi witnesses, the ones who never testified at his trial. so no one has ever interviewed you like this? >> no. >> that's next on "conviction." per roll
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hour's top stories and new
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video you may find disturbing. first off, this video obtained by tmz cap churg the moment the gunman began shooting. innocent people inside ft. lauderdale's airport yesterday, friday, five people were killed, six are still in the hospital. then in israel, in this video, you can see when a truck plowed in a group of people in jerusalem, killing four israeli soldiers, the driver believed to be an isis supporter was shot and killed by police after that. for now, back to "dateline conviction." i'm in florida, working my way down richard rosario's list of alibi witnesses. i've spoken with two who did testify, but now i want to speak with the ones who never appeared at his trial, names rosario gave bronx detectives the night he turned himself in. but there are also three other people who live close by, who i'm hoping can help me learn
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more about richard rosario, his family. all right. so we'll be there in 30 minutes. is that okay? nice house. hello. >> good morning. >> nice to meet you. >> nice to meet you too. >> this is richard's wife. i said wife. she stood by him for 25 years. even though richard has been behind bars for 20 of them. she works for an insurance company, and had to raise their two children, amanda and richard jr., on her own. she and richard met when they were teenagers. >> i was in a pizza shop and he walked in and he claimed me as his wife. >> what was your first reaction when you saw him? >> he wasn't my type. i can't believe that he just said that, how dare he? but he just has this charisma about him, and from that moment on we were together.
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>> a year later, amanda was born. she was barely 4 when her dad was arrested. >> what was it like for you growing up, everybody's dad is everywhere. >> i went to a small school. i'm sorry. and we had father/daughter dances and that wasn't fun. not being able to tell people why you couldn't go. so it was hard. >> amanda's brother richard jr. was 2 when his father was sent away. he tells me a story that how as a young child he would pretend his dad was a cartoon hero, who fought crime. >> when i was a kid, i used to imagine my dad being a power ranger because i didn't know what to think. i was, like, might as well say he's the dude on the tv screen that i think is cool.
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it helped me a lot to think my dad was just out there, fighting crime, basically. >> the irony of that is not lost on me. and hearing it is heart breaking. especially if rosario is wrongfully convicted, which is what his wife believes. >> that's impossible. he was in florida. i thought he was insane. >> at the time, she and richard were living in new york and she remembers wiring money to him in florida. no question, you remember that? >> definitely. i remember it. i was funding his fun here in florida. >> she said there is a specific reason why she remembers when she wired that money. >> i remember he received the funds and then he called me to tell me that he was going to go to the hospital because his friend's wife had the baby. >> her story about the birth of the baby matches up with what i heard yesterday from john torres and his wife janine. but, of course, there is a million reasons why rosario's wife would want to back up her
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husband. so what about all those other people on rosario's list of witnesses? about half an hour away, i meet up with margarita and fernando torres. where are we? >> my son used to live here. we met richard over here. >> you already met their son, john torres. his father fernando said he remembers seeing richard rosario in florida on that special day. >> if my grandson had not been born on the 20th of june, this would be nothing to me. >> and his memory appears to be clear. >> between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon. i parked my car right there. right about here. and richard walked over and greeted me right about here. and he told me that my daughter-in-law had just had the baby. >> it is hard not to believe fernando. after all, he has a job that doesn't exactly condone lying. >> i'm an assistant pastor right now at the church. >> and his wife margarita says she also knows the truth. no doubt in your mind. >> no doubt in my mind. >> 100% sure --
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>> 100%. >> he was here. >> they say they never heard a word from anyone and told more than a year after rosario's arrest, when a lawyer called for their son. >> some attorney called from new york and said that they wanted johnny as a witness. >> during that phone call, fernando says he offered to testify. but was told not necessary. >> you sure you don't want my testimony? he says, no, no, johnny's testimony is good enough. and that was it. only thing i heard was that he was convicted after that. i said, wow, how can they do that? >> i'm listening to these people and they sound like they're telling the truth. >> i continue my way down rosario's list. and meet up with shanoa ruiz, once a member of the torres family, married to john's brother back then and lived next door to john and janine. she says she saw rosario in florida, the day the murder was happening in new york. >> do you have a very specific
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recollection? >> my sister-in-law at the time was giving birth and richard was there in the house when she was going into labor. >> prior to his trial, did anybody -- >> no. >> interview you? >> no. >> have you thought about this a lot over the years? >> yeah, that's crazy, his life, his kids, not able to see him. >> i always play devil's advocate with myself to try and find a reason to be skeptical of what a witness tells me. in this case, i'm thinking maybe because they're all in the same family that they're telling the same story. but then i meet this guy. >> my name is michael serano, a federal correction officer. i've been doing that for ten years now. >> michael is friends with john torres. and like everyone else i've spoken with down here in florida, this is what he says about richard rosario. >> he was staying in johnny's house. and he was there, celebrating the birth of johnny's son. >> okay. first a cop, then a pastor, now a federal corrections officer.
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this is starting to sound like a bad joke. but if what they're all saying about richard rosario is true, it is definitely not funny. there is no question in your mind that richard rosario was with you here in florida? >> yes, he was here in florida, no doubt. yes. >> you're 100% sure. >> 100% sure. >> when he was arrested, did you ever hear from anybody, did anybody ever call you from the nypd? did a detective, lawyer, call you and say, hey, was he down here? >> negative. no. >> i'm confused and concerned about what i'm hearing. especially after speaking on the phone with two more names on rosario's list, not related to the others, who insist he was in florida. i can't stop thinking about the facts of this case, i just spoke with six people who are certain rosario was innocent. and it wasn't even hard to find them. so why didn't detectives or rosario's own lawyers go to florida and do what i just did? this is your handwriting, right?
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i'm back in new york city, after speaking with richard rosario's alibi witnesses, i want to dive deeper into this case. starting with the original detectives. i want to know what they would make of what the folks in florida told me. the investigation into george collazo's murder was basically a group effort, as are most nypd homicide investigations. but there is only one lead detective, and in this case, it was a guy named gary whitaker. he's retired now, but i spoke with him on the phone and he said he didn't remember much about the case, and he did not want to do an interview with me about it. but while lead detective gary whitaker arrested rosario, he's not the one who took rosario's statement. that was a different detective named irwin silverman.
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i'm on my way to yonkers, new york, on this gloomy, rainy day, to speak with irwin silverman, retired now. apparently his nickname is silky and he agreed to see me. silky, as he told me to call him, asked that we meet in his synagogue. he arrives wearing a wild t-shirt as we set up in the congregation room. big owl staring at me. we get right to it. we're here to talk about the richard rosario case. >> correct. >> what do you remember about it? >> there is a lot i don't remember. i was not really involved in that much of the case. >> it was a cop with the nypd for 41 years. most of that time as a detective in the bronx. he tells me he played a minor role in the investigation. but an important one. this is the statement that richard rosario gave the night he turned himself in. >> mm-hmm. >> you took that statement from him? >> yes, mm-hmm.
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>> what do you make of that statement? when you read that statement, what do you make of it? >> it is a denial statement. he claims he was not involved, claims he wasn't around at the time. >> what do you do with that when it is done? >> it is put into the file. >> if he gives you a statement of 13 alibi witnesses, is it your responsibility to follow up on it? >> no, it is not. >> whose responsibility is that? >> it is the responsibility of the lead detective, and the -- i guess eventually the reports go to the d.a. for prosecution. what was done, what should have been done, i really don't recall. >> i show silky clips of the alibi witnesses telling me no one ever came to speak with them. >> nobody. no one from nypd called me just to confirm if what he was saying was true. >> now, did the cop testify? >> two out of the 13 testified. >> two. >> but no one spoke with these -- all these other alibi witnesses. do you take any responsibility,
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saying to the lead detective, hey, by the way, i put something in the folder, the guy say he had 13 alibi witnesses, did anybody call them? >> i most likely did that. i may have said, i would suggest you have all these people interviewed. >> would it be upsetting to you if they didn't do that? >> sure. why not? with that information, that i got that night, i would assume that those people would have been spoken to. if that didn't happen, i would feel things were left out. >> i also find another former detective who worked on the rosario case, charles kruger. he was the one who showed that main eyewitness michael sanchez books of mug shots hours after the crime. he says he needs to refresh his memory so i show him some police reports including richard rosario's list of alibi witnesses. >> we have people i.d.ing saying he definitely did the shooting. then, you know, it is irrelevant, he can say anything
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he wants, you know, we have eyewitnesses. >> i think a lot of people would be surprised about that. the onus is not on the detectives to investigate these claims that he gave that first night. >> well, we're out -- we have witnesses. once someone picks him out, they pick him out. >> that's how i know he's innocent, because he is innocent. he was here. >> i also show him clips of my interviews with the alibi witnesses. >> richard was there, in the house. >> they seem credible. if he was in florida, he couldn't have done it, he shouldn't be in prison. >> what is someone to do, other than what he did, in terms of turning himself in and saying this is where i was in the different state and here is the people to talk to. >> i don't know if he could have done anything else. apparently whoever his first attorney was did a lousy job. >> so what about rosario's trial attorney? he didn't want to discuss the case with me, even though rosario asked him to. so i reach out to someone else who can help fill me in on the history of this case. his office is just a few blocks
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from nbc headquarters. >> i've been a lawyer for 30 years. >> chip loewenson first metro sarro five years after his conviction. a former classmate from yale law school asked chip if he would represent him on appeal for free. to chip, it seemed like a slam dunk case. >> i thought once i read into the case and i still think clear cut obvious case that richard rosario did not get a fair trial because he didn't have effective assistance of counsel. >> basically, chip believes rosario got a raw deal. here's why. rosario had no money. and was assigned a court appointed attorney, a woman named joyce hartsfield. she had the case for about a year before she moved on for personal reasons. rosario was then assigned a new attorney, a man named steven kaiser. and chip says both attorneys screwed up. >> the trial lawyers who represented richard just messed up. the first lawyer applied to the court to get expenses paid for
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defense investigator to go to florida. that petition was granted. and then she didn't do anything for a year. >> so the court actually granted rosario's attorney the money to send an investigator to florida. but the screwup comes in when joyce hartsfield hands the case over to steven kaiser who would represent him at trial. >> the first lawyer told the new lawyer that the petition had been denied. even though in fact it had been granted. >> translation, no one fully investigated rosario's alibi. not even his own defense attorney. >> it was just a mix-up, a misunderstanding. >> yes, a mix-up, but i found them, i spoke with them on the phone. >> right. >> i called them on the phone and they told me their story before i went to florida. >> could have done that too. >> he could have done that. >> and he didn't. >> i feel like i'm missing something. >> you're not missing anything. it is a colossal injustice. >> six years after his conviction, rosario won a rare
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legal victory, a new hearing before a judge. chip represented him and called seven alibi witnesses to testify. including the people i interviewed in florida. but the judge wasn't swayed. he found that rosario's additional alibi witnesses were questionable and not as persuasive as the two who testified at his trial and were discounted by the jury. and that in spite of the misunderstanding or mistake made by rosario's attorneys, they both represented him with integrity in a thoroughly professional, competent and dedicated fashion. most of all, the judge wrote the people's case was strong, and rosario's conviction was amply supported by the evidence. the motion was denied. why didn't the judge believe the alibi witnesses? >> it is inexplicable to me. i think it is awful. but -- >> i think the judge got it wrong. >> i wanted to ask the judge about his decision, but he passed away many years ago. i leave chip's office with a
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copy of everything he has on the case. and i soon discover more. there is all these names i've never heard of before. eyewitnesses who have never testified. including letters that rosario wrote to his first attorney in 1996 from jail, where he was awaiting trial. i came back to new york from florida because i was told they were looking for me. being that i know i didn't commit the crime, i came back to justify my innocence. and look how long it is taking to get me out. i'm going crazy up in here and i don't know how much longer i can take this. he wrote that in the months after his arrest and it is the same exact story that he's been telling for nearly 20 years. my focus now is on the evidence that convicted rosario. those two eyewitnesses. it is time to find them and see what they say. that's next on "conviction."
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the case against richard rosario all comes down to two eyewitnesses. i've been eager to speak with them, i've been having trouble finding them. the names michael sanchez and robert davis are just about as common as john smith. but eventually i find a possible address for robert davis. not in the bronx, where george collazo was murdered, but a
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different borough of new york city. we're here in brooklyn to look for robert davis, he lives over here in this building right next to coney island, we have no idea if he's home or if he even still lives here. we're going to to go and knock on his door, see if he's home and if he'll talk to us. it can be nerve wracking when tracking people down. you never know what you could be walking into or what kind of reaction you're going to get. but it is something i need to do, especially because of how important robert davis is to this case. as former detective bobby showed me at the crime scene. >> bump, words passed. >> the official theory of the crime is that george collazo's murder was the result of a random altercation among strangers. the gunman followed collazo and his friend michael sanchez down a side street, reports show robert davis was standing right about here. lucky for me, davis is home and allows me to record our
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interview. >> so you'll ask me the questions? >> yeah. he says he was on the job that day, outside the building where he worked. >> i'm cleaning the street. i see three gentlemen coming towards me. and two of them are having words. one of them says, you're not going to do this no more. you know. so in my mind, i'm thinking it is over a girl. i hear a shot, bang, and look up, and -- >> davis tells me he immediately ran over to help and tried to get information from the victim's friend, michael sanchez. >> do you know this person? do you know this person that got shot, do you know the person that shot him? he answered yes. i said, wait here. >> wait a second. did he say michael sanchez, the victim's friend knew the shooter? >> he knew the shooter. said, do you know that person? he said, yeah. >> i read the police reports and sanchez never told the police he knew the shooter. maybe davis is just wrong. after all, it has been 20 years. but he seems to remember a lot of details. >> got the police and ambulance
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and that was it, the cops came. >> detectives brought davis to the 43rd precinct in the bronx, where he was shown books of mug shots of young hispanic men. but couldn't identify anyone. so davis went back to work. then within a couple of hours, the other eyewitness, michael sanchez, picked out rosario's mug shot. so detectives showed up at davis' job that night. this time, he says, they only had a handful of pictures with them. he's like, maybe two to three pictures and maybe just came out, which one. which picture. like show me. you know. i just pointed out the guy said, yeah, that's the guy. so i thought i did my job. >> that guy was richard rosario. davis tells me he didn't doubt rosario's guilt then and does not doubt it now. >> i still feel like i had -- i got the man. >> i'm curious what davis would make of all those alibi witnesses in florida. i make it clear i'm not looking
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to sway him in any way. i just want to emphasize to you, we're not trying to get you to say he's innocent. i'm not here to prove his innocence. i'm here to find the truth. that's all i care about. i'm a deputy sheriff. on june 19th, he was in my house, we were talking. >> davis isn't even through hearing first alibi witness before he has a reaction. >> not a single phone call. >> that's messed up if he's really an innocent person. really messed up. >> and after he's done watching the rest, his mood seems to change. >> really hurts my conscience now to see that if i did lock up an innocent person, that's kind of bad, you know, especially if the cops lied. or bs'd me. >> how did the cops lie? what did they say to you -- >> if this really wasn't the man, just bringing up anybody's picture to me. >> that's not the cops saying it. it is you saying it. >> no, they show me a picture, i say, yes it was him. they do different things. maybe trying to convince me to say this is the guy. maybe i did make a mistake maybe in that.
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maybe that wasn't really the guy. >> the only people that say he did do it are you and this other guy, michael. that's it. >> and the cops saying he did it. >> well, the cops aren't saying it. >> they are. they said he was the guy. they did say that. the cops did tell me that. this is when i'm trying to tell you. i know they said he was the guy. you know. they said you got the right guy. thank you very much. that was it. >> wow. from the beginning, in police reports, and in his testimony, davis has been consistent. he said over and over again he's certain richard rosario pulled that trigger. i take another look at robert davis' testimony from rosario's trial. he testified detectives actually showed him a bunch of books when they came back to his job. and that he looked at more than 75 pictures. not just two or three, like he told me. and i double-checked, it is not documented anywhere that davis has ever said that michael
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sanchez told him he knew the shooter. so what should i make of robert davis? once again, i call on former detective bobby adelarato to get his opinion. >> he's telling me -- they said he was the person. >> bobby is immediately skeptical of davis. >> i think now it is 20 years since the incident occurred, right. and he appears to be somebody very pliable. i think you could probably get this guy to say anything. >> and we don't know if it is true. >> mm-hmm. >> but -- >> if it is exactly the way he is saying it, there is a police procedure problem. you don't show a witness two pictures, three pictures. there is a system in place to show six photographs, detective 101. the way i took it was that the cop said, confirm that's the guy, yeah. >> that's what i got from that. i got from that he's saying once he picked who he picked, the cops confirmed to him, yes, you
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got the right -- >> is there a problem with that? >> yeah. i would never tell somebody, yeah, you got the right guy. >> what is the problem with doing that? >> you're influencing them at that point you're confirming to him, you already convicted him at that point. yes, you got the right guy. yes, this is the guy who did it. you're telling him this is the murderer. >> even though the lead detective gary whitaker didn't want to go on camera, he did tell me he would never show a witness just a few photos and everything was done by the book. i also called the nypd and they declined to speak about the case. the only other evidence against rosario is the person who first pointed to his picture, hours after the crime. the victim's friend, min michae sanchez. i'm having trouble finding sanchez. and now i'm starting to wonder if rosario is innocent, what really happened here? it is time to learn more about the victim, george collazo, and doing that will launch me on a brand-new trail. >> he was scared.
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he knew something was going to happen to him. >> that's next on "conviction". . and we thoroughly test all our nuts for superior craveability. hey richard, check out this fresh roasted flavor. looks delicious, huh? -yeah. -richard, try to control yourself. -i can't help it. -and how about that aroma? -love that aroma! umph! -craveability, approved! -oh, can i have some now?! -sure! help yourself. -wait, what? -irresistibly planters. i'm raph. my name is anne. i'm one of the real live attorneys you can talk to through legalzoom. don't let unanswered legal questions hold you up, because we're here, we're here, and we've got your back. legalzoom. legal help is here.
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(team sing) safelite repair, safelite replace. talking to a victim's family is always a tough thing to do. i know that contacting them might dredge up horrible memories, but i need to find out more information about george collazo and my search for the truth. also, it is only respectful that they know what i'm up to. i find one of george's sisters living in north carolina. i send her an e-mail and then give her a call. >> hello. >> it is dan slepian, how are you? she's hesitant to talk on the phone, but says she'll be in new york in a few months and would rather meet then. so we set a date. >> this is important. i let her know i with like to film our conversation when we do. we set up our cameras in a room in the nbc news offices. and i wait for her to show up.
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i'm so glad you came. >> okay. >> thank you. >> you're welcome. >> all right. her name is wanika collazo. she tells me she adored her little brother and is here to make sure someone speaks for him. so you brought a picture of george. she tells me how george was the youngest of five. >> he died the day after my 20th birthday. >> the much loved baby boy of four older sisters. >> he played football. he played little league for years. he loved it. we loved going to his games to watch him. >> she says she'll never forget the moment she heard what happened. she was at work and called home. her father answered the phone. >> he said your brother has been shot. i don't know how bad it is. i need you to get here. that's the worst feeling. >> if there was any silver lining in those first weeks, she says it was that a suspect was quickly in custody. >> you feel a relief, but you want to be sure at the same time that they get the right person.

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