On May 18, a Massachusetts man who had been imprisoned for 21 years after being convicted of murder was released after a judge granted him a new trial. Now, prosecutors in the case say they aren’t sure whether they will request a new trial for Angel Echavarria, but they have decided not to appeal the judge’s decision.
Echavarria, who has maintained his innocence in the 1994 slaying of Daniel Rodriguez in Lynn, said that he knew this day would come. Echavarria, who is now 48 years old, was freed after a judge overturned his conviction on April 30 of this year. The judge made his decision largely due to questions raised by a decade-long project by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University.
The courtroom erupted into cheers as a court officer took the handcuffs off Echavarria, who always believed he would be freed, saying that he was not responsible for the murder of Daniel Rodriguez inside a Lynn apartment where Rodriguez and his brother lived. The two men were met by two armed men as they went into the apartment, according to a news report at the Boston Globe. The apartment was reportedly known for drug activity. Daniel’s brother, Isidoro, had his hands bound and was taken into a bedroom where he was ordered to lie on the floor, however he freed himself and found Daniel with his feet and hands tied; he had been shot twice in the head.
Echavarria, who was said to be part of the drug gang, was charged in the murder along with another man. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime scene, and he denied knowing either of the brothers, or going to their apartment.
Charles H. Robson, Echavarria’s defense attorney at trial, had numerous complaints pending against him from the Supreme Judicial Court’s Board of Bar Overseers. He was eventually suspended from the bar due to a pattern of professional misconduct. At Echavarria’s trial, Robson never called his client to the stand after telling the jury in opening statements that Echavarria would testify in his own defense.
Essex Superior Court Judge David Lowy granted Echavarria’s request for a new trial, saying that he did not have adequate legal representation two decades ago and that the prosecution’s case was flawed. Lowy said the court was left with a “compelling belief that justice may not have been done in this case.”
Prosecutors will decide by a June 16 hearing whether they will retry the case.
While we cannot know for certain whether Echavarria is innocent or guilty, there are countless people who sit behind bars for decades, accused of crimes they did not commit. Many who are wrongly convicted appeal their convictions; unfortunately, it is rare that an appeals court overturns a murder conviction, although it does happen occasionally.
If you have been wrongly convicted of a crime, consult with an experienced Michigan appeals attorney with a proven track record for good results. The lawyer you choose to represent you in the appeals process can make all of the difference in the outcome.