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Paul Marcucci

Other Arson Cases with Perjury or False Accusation
On the night of June 14, 2009, an explosion and fire erupted in a vacant building housing retail stores and apartments on Rodman Street in Fall River, Massachusetts.

On July 17, 2009, police arrested 47-year-old Paul Marcucci and charged him with arson.

Marcucci went to trial in Bristol County Superior Court in June 2011. Russell Cory testified that he was leaving a restaurant across the street from the building when he heard the explosion and saw flames. He said he ran to the building and opened the front door to see if anyone was inside and came face to face with a man wearing a black hoodie who exclaimed, “What the (expletive) just happened?” and fled on foot. The man had sunken cheeks as if he had no teeth, Cory said.

Cory testified that he later viewed a photographic lineup and selected a photograph of Marcucci, who lived in an apartment nearby, as the man who fled from the building. A police officer said that Cory viewed several hundred photographs on a computer and selected four photographs, none of which were Marcucci. After Cory was given a stack of eight photographs, he excluded six and after studying the remaining two photographs, selected Marcucci, who stood out as the only one of the eight who was smiling broadly showing a full set of teeth.

Prosecutors presented evidence that the fire was arson based on tests that identified gasoline in a piece of linoleum removed from the building as well as a gas can and gas can nozzle found in the building. A portion of a road safety flare was recovered that was believed by investigators to have been used to ignite the gasoline.

Marcucci managed and lived in one of three apartment buildings owned by a friend and collected rents from tenants in that building. The building that was torched was being rehabilitated and the prosecution claimed that Marcucci set the fire because the building, when finished, would have competed for tenants in the area where his friend’s buildings were located.

The prosecution also presented a witness who lived in the same building as Marcucci and from whom Marcucci collected rent. That witness claimed that on the night of the fire, Marcucci came to the witness’s first floor apartment, stripped down to his underwear in the hallway, and then entered and took a shower while still wearing his underwear. The witness said Marcucci’s clothing smelled of gasoline and that after he showered, Marcucci went to his own apartment on the third floor.

Marcucci’s defense lawyer called a friend of Marcucci’s, George Colajezzi, who testified that Marcucci, who did not drive, cut Colajezzi's lawn (as he often did) on the day of the fire and had dinner with him and his wife, Donna, and spent the night with them before Colajezzi drove Marcucci home the following morning.

On July 6, 2011, the jury convicted Marcucci of arson. He was sentenced to 8 to 10 years in prison.

Attorney Don Brisson was hired to handle the appeal of the conviction and filed a motion for a new trial claiming that Marcucci’s original trial attorney had failed to investigate Daniel Rosman, the owner of the building, as a suspect in the crime and had failed to call Donna Colajezzi, to confirm that Marcucci had dinner at her home and slept overnight there on the night of the fire.

In April 2014, Marcucci was granted a new trial. During a hearing on the motion to vacate the conviction, Marcucci’s trial attorney said he didn’t call Donna Colajezzi because her husband told him she did not want to testify because she disliked Marcucci. However, Judge E. Susan Garsh said that the trial attorney failed to fully investigate that claim and noted that at the evidentiary hearing on the motion to vacate the conviction, the wife testified she came to the trial and was prepared to testify for Marcucci, but she was instructed by Marcucci’s attorney to go home because she was not needed as a witness.

Marcucci went to trial a second time in July 2016, represented by Brisson. Prior to the trial, the judge prohibited the prosecution from presenting the photographic array because it was “suggestive.”

A Fall River police officer testified that he called Rosman, the building’s owner, while the building was still burning and asked Rosman to come to the scene, but that Rosman at first said that he would not come. Rosman relented, but not before he said to the officer that the fire was probably set by a homeless person—even though the fire was being fought and no cause had been established. The officer also testified that Rosman asserted that no one could have gotten into the building because he had been in the building the day before, had locked it up and he had the only key.

The prosecution also presented testimony from a tenant in the building where Marcucci lived at the time of the fire. She said she saw him at the top of the stairs shortly after the fire. However, Brisson was able to show that it would have been physically impossible for Marcucci to have set the fire and gotten back to the building at the time the woman saw him and if she did in fact see him, that was further proof he didn’t set the fire.

Brisson also elicited admissions from Rosman that while he had initially told police he was about $2,300 behind in his mortgage payments, in fact he was tens of thousands of dollars behind and was in foreclosure proceedings. Moreover, the building had been condemned by the city of Fall River due to building violations.

Brisson also presented evidence that other properties Rosman owned, including his home, were also either in foreclosure or being threatened with foreclosure.

After the prosecution finished presenting its evidence, Brisson summoned Fall River Police Lt. Paul Bernier as a witness based upon information Bernier had written in his report that the prosecution had disclosed to the defense prior to the first trial.

Bernier testified he interviewed Cory—the man who had told the jury he opened the door and came face to face with the man he said was Marcucci—on the night of the fire.

Bernier testified that during the interview, Cory said, “I wanted to go to the door, but I didn’t go to the door.” Bernier testified that on the night of the fire, Cory said he was standing outside the restaurant across the street when he saw a man wearing dark clothing run away from the building just before the building exploded.

On July 29, 2016, the jury acquitted Marcucci and he was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/4/2016
State:Massachusetts
County:Bristol
Most Serious Crime:Arson
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2009
Convicted:2011
Exonerated:2016
Sentence:8 to 10 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:47
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No