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All NRE reports represent a moment in time. For the most accurate data, please search on the Detailed View page. The website is updated daily, frequently with exonerations that occurred in the past.
On May 23, 1969, a massive fire broke out at the Adult Correctional Institution in Cranston, Rhode Island.
Three inmates – Emil Carsetti Jr., Gennaro D’Amico, and Raymond Wilbur – were charged with statutory burning of a building.
The men received a jury trial in the Rhode Island Superior Court, with Judge James C. Bulman presiding. Inmate Domingo Baptiste was the state’s key witness, testifying that he saw Carsetti, D’Amico, and Wilbur set the fire. The defense claimed it was Baptiste who set the fire.
On October 29, 1969, the jury found the three men guilty of statutory burning of a building. Each was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Before reading their sentences, Judge Bulman asked the defendants if they had anything to say, and each said he was innocent. Following his conviction, Carsetti was held in solitary confinement for 728 days.
D’Amico later submitted an affidavit saying that he started the fire with Baptiste, and Carsetti and Wilbur were not involved. Gerard W. Bessette, who had also testified at the trial, submitted a separate affidavit stating that he had lied when he testified that he saw Wilbur set the fire. In his affidavit, Bessette said it was Baptiste and D’Amico whom he had seen set the fire.
Carsetti and Wilbur were granted new trials in August 1973 based on this new evidence of perjured testimony. On January 3, 1974, Superior Court Judge Corrine P. Grande dismissed the indictments against Carsetti and Wilbur.
In 2021, Rhode Island passed legislation allowing qualifying wrongfully convicted individuals to receive compensation from the state. Carsetti’s arson conviction met the criteria and in 2022, the state awarded him compensation. He was now 79 years old. “It destroyed my whole life,” Carsetti said of his false conviction and time spent in solitary confinement. “There’s a lot of anger in me still, after 53 years.”
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.