Wrongful Convictions

Over the past few years, Nardizzi & Associates has been retained for both post-conviction relief in criminal cases, as well as for civil cases (either state tort claims or federal civil rights cases) whereby an exoneree files a lawsuit against a state official for intentional misconduct that led to the wrongful conviction. Cases are handled on a fee basis or pro bono, depending on current case load. Currently, we have several criminal appeals underway, as well as several investigations of civil rights cases involving men who spent over twenty years in prison before clearing their names.

Recent case successes include:

~ In July 2014, client
Victor Rosario was freed after spending 32 years behind bars for a 1982 arson fire that killed eight people. A Middlesex Superior Court judge overturned Victor Rosario's one arson and eight murder convictions based on advances in arson forensics as well as major errors in the handling of the investigation, including interviews done with witnesses and Rosario himself.


a $3.1 million settlement for the wrongful conviction of Dennis Maher for two rapes and an assault that occurred in 1983. Dennis Maher v. TOWN OF AYER, AYER POLICE DEPARTMENT, NANCY TAYLOR-HARRIS, CITY OF LOWELL, EDWARD F. DAVIS III, et al.; U.S. District Court Case, No. 06-CA-10514

Dennis Maher reached a $3.1 million settlement in his civil rights case against the town of Ayer, according to the Boston Globe. Maher was released from prison in April 2003 after having served 19 years of a life sentence for rape. He was exonerated when forensic tests revealed his genetic fingerprint did not match DNA evidence found at the scene of an alleged 1983 Ayer rape at the Caza Manor Hotel. Maher claimed his civil rights were violated due to the negligent management and training of Ayer Police Department investigators, including now-retired Officer Nancy Taylor-Harris.

Maher's civil case was based partly on evidence unearthed by private investigator John Nardizzi, who discovered that one of the alleged rape victims had faced criminal assault charges of her own during that era. These charges were dropped in exchange for her cooperation on the Maher case. Defense counsel was never told about the arrangement that Taylor and the Ayer Police had engineered with the victim/witness. The witness's criminal charge was transferred to another court and essentially disappeared from the public docket, only to be unearthed two decades later. The prosecutor who handled the Maher case later testified at his deposition: "Officer Taylor, in my opinion, engaged in misconduct by working some side arrangement with the victim not to prosecute her for a criminal case against the police department, and withheld that information from me."

Nardizzi also unearthed evidence that a key witness at trial, Richard Nichols, was well-known to Ayer Police and Nancy Taylor (who denied any memory of him in her deposition). Nichols was the son of a former police matron employed for decades at the Ayer Police Department. Moreover, Nichols had been arrested multiple times. Ayer Police were not able to produce any notes, reports, or statements from interviews with Nichols, despite the fact that a meeting between Nichols and Taylor was documented in a police log, and Nichols turned out to be the centerpiece of their case.


~ a $3.4 million settlement for the wrongful conviction of Kenneth Waters for the murder of a woman in May 1980. BETTY ANNE WATERS, Administratrix of the Estate of KENNETH WATERS v. TOWN OF AYER, NANCY TAYLOR-HARRIS, ARTHUR BOISSEAU, WILLIAM ADAMSON, and PHILIP L. CONNORS, U.S. District Court Case, No. 04-10521

Our client, The Estate of Kenneth Waters, settled a civil rights case against The Ayer Police Department, Officer Nancy Taylor, and other Ayer police officers, for $3.4 million. Kenneth Waters was wrongfully arrested and convicted. He served 18 years of a life sentence for the 1980 murder and armed robbery of Katharina Brow. Waters was released from prison after DNA evidence had revealed the blood of an unknown person at the murder scene. Waters died during an accidental fall shortly after being granted his freedom. His sister, Betty Anne Waters, had put herself through law school in order to represent one client: her brother. She located the biological evidence and worked to have it subjected to DNA testing.

Waters complaint alleged that the Ayer Police and Taylor's deliberate bad-faith suppression of favorable evidence led to his conviction – including suppression of evidence that Waters was not the source of the perpetrator’s bloody fingerprint on a piece of a toaster on the dining room floor; as well as suppression of Waters’ time card from work, which cemented his alibi. Taylor was also accused of used coercive and suggestive tactics to manufacture falsely incriminating statements from witnesses Brenda Marsh and Roseanna Perry.


~ Another client, Michael O'Laughlin, filed a writ of habeas corpus and was successful in overturning of his conviction. MICHAEL O'LAUGHLIN, Petitioner, v. STEVEN O'BRIEN, Superintendent, Old Colony Correctional Center, Respondent, U.S. Court of Appeals For the First Circuit, Case No. 08-1010


~ Scott Hornoff, a Rhode Island police officer, served six years, four months and 18 days of a life sentence for another’s crime, and was freed on November 6, 2002, five days after the real killer, Todd Barry, confessed to the crime. We investigated the case to help Scott get backpay and reinstatement.


This article discusses some issues that arise in wrongful conviction cases. The sheer number of false convictions has exposed deep flaws in the criminal justice system--regarding, in particular, the use of informants, police interview tactics, and methods of eyewitness identification. The question raised by the release of these innocent people is obvious: how many more innocent people are rotting inside of U.S. prisons while the guilty roam free?

Other sites with information on wrongful convictions include:

Center on Wrongful Convictions

The Innocence Project

Death Penalty Information Center

New England Innocence Project