A man who spent 21 years in prison for a killing he says he didn't commit filed a federal civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against the city of Lynn as well as city and state police officers he accuses of framing him.
Angel Echavarria was convicted of murder in 1996 in the shooting two years prior of Daniel Rodriguez in Lynn and sentenced to life in prison.
He was freed by a judge last year based largely on the investigative work of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. The judge cited flawed evidence and an ineffective defense lawyer.
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The federal suit seeking unspecified damages was filed one year to the day after Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett decided not to retry the case.
The suit alleges that city and state police who investigated the 1994 shooting death of Rodriguez manipulated evidence.
"The evidence used to convict Angel Echevarria was invented out of whole cloth," attorney Steven Art said.
A state police spokesman and Lynn's city lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Some of the officers are now retired, Art said.
"Defendants subjected plaintiff to arbitrary governmental action that shocks the conscience in that plaintiff was deliberately and intentionally framed for a crime of which he was totally innocent, through defendants' fabrication and suppression of evidence and their use of unduly suggestive identification procedures," the suit says.
The only eyewitness to the shooting, which took place in a known drug den, was the victim's brother, and he twice identified another man as the shooter, Art said.
"That man had been arrested two months prior literally blocks away for the attempted murder of a drug dealer," Art said.
The victim's brother also said the shooter was a clean-shaven Puerto Rican man with a "stocky" build. The 5-foot-10 Echavarria is Dominican and in 1994 weighed 135 pounds and had a full mustache.
Echevarria, 49, now lives in Florida and recently got married, Art said.