New Trial Granted Based On Eyewitness ID Developments

First Justice, Then Freedom, Then Joy

On May 31, 2016, Justice Richard Tucker granted Attorney Wood’s motion for new trial in Commonwealth v. Cosenza, a 2000 armed burglary case in which the trial judge had excluded the eyewitness expert testimony of Dr. Steven Penrod. Attorney Wood has been fighting for Mr. Cosenza for more than a decade. He challenged the exclusion of eyewitness expert testimony on direct appeal and pursued it all the way to the Supreme Court without success. But in the wake of the Supreme Judicial Court’s Study Group on Eyewitness Identification and other recent developments, he and Attorney Matthew Malm drafted a motion arguing that justice had not been done in light of the newly-accepted science of eyewitness identification (supported again by an affidavit from Dr. Penrod). Justice Tucker accepted these arguments and granted a new trial.

This was a great example of collaboration to advance the interests of our clients. Victory started with a brainstorming session set up by Lisa Kavanaugh at the CPCS Innocence Program.  Then, Attorney Malm drafted an obviously persuasive memorandum. We also got great support from Ira Gant at the CPCS Innocence Program, Radha Natarajan of New England Innocence Project and Karen Neiwirth of the Innocence Project (NY), all of whom made the presentation even more powerful.

Once a new trial was granted, we moved immediately to have Mr. Cosenza released, which Justice Tucker ordered on June 3.

You can read the decision granting a new trial here. You can read the order granting Mr. Cosenza’s release here.

Below you will find a few pictures showing the joy of that day. Mr. Cosenza was released into the waiting arms of his family.

Nat Cosenza and family just after his release.

Nat Cosenza and family just after his release.

Pictured in addition to Mr. Cosenza’s family are (back row, left to right): Attorney Malm, Attorney Kavanaugh, Attorney Wood, Attorney Gant, Attorney Eva Jellison,  Attorney Natalie Rice (second row).

Pictured in addition to Mr. Cosenza’s family are (back row, left to right): Attorney Malm, Attorney Kavanaugh, Attorney Wood, Attorney Gant, Attorney Eva Jellison,  Attorney Natalie Rice (second row).

Nat Cosenza with his grandfather

Nat Cosenza with his grandfather

Attorney Wood and Nat Cosenza

Attorney Wood and Nat Cosenza