Wrongful Convictions

Over the past decade, John Nardizzi and his team have investigated some of the most significant wrongful convictions cases in the US, including cases for James Watson, Gary Cifizzari, Dennis Maher, Estate of Kennth Waters, Michael O'Laughlin, Victor Rosario, Scott Hornoff, Tommy Rosa and many others. An investigation is ongoing in the conviction of client Brian Peixoto in a 1996 case in Bristol County. Many of these stories are documented at the New England Innocence Project. We investigate cases for both post-conviction relief in criminal matters as well as 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.


Recent major case successes include:

~ James Watson filed emergency motion due to the Covid-19 pandemic and received a stay of execution on his prison sentence pending litigation of motion for a new trial. The judge credited our investigation with "questions raised in this case of: hypnosis of identification witnesses and . . . the potential testimony, rewards, and inducements of a highly inculpatory trial witness, raise significant and potentially successful issues." On April 16, 2020, after 40 years in prison, Mr. Watson walked out of prison—
a free man. His conviction was formally overturned a year later

~ In spring 2020, we investigated a 1979 rape-murder case that resulted in the exoneration of our client,
Gary Cifizzari. DNA evidence on the weapon had cleared Mr. Cifizzari— but matched a CODIS profile in the FBI database. Our exhaustive investigation developed the true history of the real culprit, a long-time police and FBI informant named Michael Giroux (who is deceased). Giroux was actually interviewed by police in connection with the Cifizzari case—he was suspected of breaking into the victim's apartment weeks earlier. On the night of the crime, Giroux was watching a boxing match at a bar just minutes from the victim's home. But police did not fully investigate him. A violent conman who committed crimes throughout his life, Giroux was involved in armed robberies, thefts, and stole money from his own family. He went on to be convicted of second-degree murder and conspiracy in the killing of a Rhode Island landlord in January 1991.

~ 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

~ 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

~ 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.

Other sites with information on wrongful convictions include:

Center on Wrongful Convictions

The Innocence Project

Death Penalty Information Center

New England Innocence Project