For the first time in 35 years, a Massachusetts man walked outside as a free man leaving court Friday.
Gary Cifizzari, 62, of Taunton, was just 27 when he was convicted of first-degree murder in the violent death of his 75-year-old great aunt in Milford back in 1979.
The New England Innocence Project joined Ropes and Gray law firm in getting new DNA testing done on the evidence in this case — which, earlier this year, came back with DNA from Michael Giroux, another convicted felon who has since died.
"It has taken 35 years, but today, we finally see some justice," said Radha Natarajan, the executive director of the New England Innocence Project.
"I feel great," Cifizzari said Friday.
"I think it means the world to him," said Kirsten Mayer, an attorney with Ropes and Gray. "Part of what is so challenging when you're in prison for life for a crime you didn't commit and you lose your closest immediate family."
Now, with a cousin in court to support him, Cifizzari heard the words he had been longing to hear for nearly four decades.
"It is ordered he shall be released on his personal recognizance," Worcester Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker said.
"The case is not over, but this is the first step," said Natarajan.
As Cifizzari takes those first steps of freedom, his legal team is working to make sure he is fully exonerated and remains free permanently.
"He has missed so many things. He has missed family. He has missed how technology has changed. The entire world is different," Natarajan said. "But we're ready for that challenge, too."
Cifizzari is heading to Boston, where he will be in transitional care — on a GPS monitoring bracelet, with a curfew.
Prosecutors have until Oct. 18 to file paperwork for a new trial.