Convicting the Innocent
DNA Exonerations Database

Eric Sarsfield

First Name Eric
Last NameSarsfield
Year of Conviction1987
Year of Exoneration2000
State of ConvictionMassachusetts
Trial, Bench Trial, or Guilty PleaTrial
Type of CrimeRape
Death SentenceNo
Gender of ExonereeMale
Race of exonereeWhite
Description / Quotes from Testimony Concerning Defense

● Defense attorney argued that there was a mistaken eyewitness identification.

Did the defendant testify at trial?Yes
Quotes from Exoneree Testimony

“Q: Did you make an intelligent decision to talk? A: Yes. Q: You did that of your own free will? A: Yes. Q: Why did you do that? A: Because I didn’t commit a rape, and I just wanted to get out of that. . . . Q: When was the first time you saw [the victim]? A: When she walked in that door on Tuesday morning. Q: You’ve never seen that woman before in your life? A: Never. Q: Did you rape that woman? A: No. Q: Did you listen to what she said you did to her? A: Yes. Q: Did you do those things? A: No.”

Types of evidence at trial
  • Eyewitness
Identity of eyewitness
  • Intraracial Identificaiton
  • Victim
Lineup Procedures
  • Composite drawing
  • Photo array
  • Showup
Suggestive Procedures

Yes ● Show-up ● Victim not told attacker might not be present

Quotes from testimony #1

“Q: Now, up to this point when they had been showing you photographs, did they give you any instructions or did they tell you anything? A: No. They said, "Just look through them and see if someone looks familiar.” Police conducted a showup of the defendant, at which she did not identify him – “So then you knew that the only non-police person in the room was the suspect, didn’t you? A. Yes.”

Unreliable Identification?

Yes ● Initial nonidentification ● Initially uncertain ● Discrepancies in description – height, hair, tattoo on arms

Quotes from testimony #2

As noted, victim did not identify Sarsfield at show-up. Then, “I was 95 percent sure that was him” but not positive, after viewing photo arrays and show-up. “Q: Yet when you saw the defendant in person, you said the lighting was such – – it was dimmed in the room — and so you couldn’t make a positive identification; didn’t you? A: At that point, no.” At trial she was certain, and said – "That is him. I am 100 percent sure." “Q: Did the witness in your presence identify Eric Sarsfield as the man who committed the rape? A: No, not — no.” Victim described a blue cross tattoo on the attacker’s right arm; defendant had not tattoo. Victim’s description to police was of a man with “blond hair but at trial changed description to “dark blond hair, brown hair”

Highest level reachedNR
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