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Eric Sarsfield

Eric Sarsfield

13 Years in Prison: Innocent

Cause: Eyewitness Misidentification
Real Perpetrator Found: No
State: Massachusetts
Convicted:
1987
Exonerated:
2000
Eric Sarsfield
2000 
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Eric Sarsfield was convicted of the August 24, 1986 rape of a Middlesex County, Massachusetts woman by a stranger. More than three months after the crime, Sarsfield was brought in for a one-on-one show-up, during which the victim offered a less than certain identification of him as her attacker. The case went to trial, and Sarsfield was convicted of the crime on July 14, 1987. Despite the existence of a rape kit with biological specimens, the Commonwealth offered no physical evidence at trial to link Sarsfield to the crime and, to a large extent, based its case on the victim's identification. Eric Sarsfield was sentenced to ten to fifteen years in state prison. His sentence was stayed, pending appeals, until late 1989, at which point he began serving time.

Throughout the trial and his post-conviction appeals, Eric Sarsfield maintained his innocence, rejecting multiple offers for early release from prison in exchange for an admission of guilt. On December 29, 1997, he filed a motion seeking DNA comparison testing of items in the rape kit, which the Commonwealth opposed. The judge granted the motion, and DNA testing was conducted on clothing the victim wore at the time of the crime. In March, 2000, the test results came back, indicating that Sarsfield was excluded as the source of semen found on the clothing. Unsatisfied, the District Attorney's office requested and was granted permission to conduct additional testing on vaginal swabs and a blood swatch from the rape kit. Those results also excluded Sarsfield. His attorney, George Garfinkle, filed a motion for post-conviction relief on August 3, 2000, which was granted. The District Attorney's office did not re-prosecute. Eric Sarsfield, who was released on parole in June, 1999, served nine years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

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The Causes

  • Eyewitness Misidentification
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The Facts

Incident Date: 8/24/86
Jurisdiction: MA
Charge: Rape
Conviction: Rape
Conviction Date: 7/14/87
Exoneration Date: 8/3/00
Sentence: 10 - 15 Years
Served: 13 years
Real Perpetrator Found: No
Compensation: Civil Suit, State Statute
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