Anthony Mazza, who watched his life pass by from behind prison walls for the 1972 murder of a bank teller in Uphams Corner, yesterday sued Boston, BPD and police officers he says framed him and railroaded him to a bogus murder conviction in part because they hated gay men.
Mazza was nearing his 48th year in prison on a first-degree murder sentence in 2020 when the Supreme Judicial Court - on his sixth appeal - ordered a new trial for him. About a year later, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office, dropped the charge against him. In 2023, a Suffolk Superior Court judge formally expunged his conviction from court records.
Mazza had been arrested following the death of Peter Armata, a Malden resident and the manager of the First National Bank branch in Uphams Corner, whose body police found tied up in a closet on the second floor of a house on Bowdoin Street at Downer Court on July 5, 1972 - after neighbors reported a foul smell to police.
In his suit, filed in US District Court in Boston, Mazza charges that investigators ignored evidence pointing to the killer being the man in whose apartment police found Armata - but that that man, initially charged with murder, managed to convince police to go after Mazza.
Mazza charges police withheld key evidence - including an interview in which that man's brother contradicted his sibling and cleared Mazza:
In the statement withheld by Defendants, William [the brother] said when Mr. Mazza was in another room, Robert [the man with the apartment] asked William if he would "help him move somebody from the premises." When William declined, Robert became angry, then used a key to unlock the door to a closet, all of which William did not mention at trial. ...
When William continued to resist helping with the victim's body, Robert said he planned to put the body in the victim's Grand Prix automobile and dump it in the river.
The suit alleges police ignored other evidence pointing to the other man as the killer, including the fact he was a violent man with a criminal record who had "bragged of robbing and killing the victim" to his lifelong friend, Mazza's roommate at the time - even to the point of detailing how he strangled Armata.
The complaint also charges that police began making the case that Mazza was "queer," slept with a man and had gone to a bar known to be 'a queer place' " the night before the murder. Prosecutors then brought all that up during his weeklong trial to prejudice the jury.
The complaint describes the effect of spending decades in prison for a crime you didn't commit:
Mr. Mazza was in his early twenties, in the prime of his life, when he was wrongly convicted. Mr. Mazza's whole life was turned upside down without any justification.
Mr. Mazza was taken away from his mother, siblings, other relatives, and friends. Because of Defendants' misconduct, Mr. Mazza has missed out on the lives of his family and friends.
While Mr. Mazza was wrongly imprisoned, except for his sister, he lost his entire family - his mother and father, brother, grandfather and uncle all died. He missed the opportunity to have and raise children.
Mr. Mazza was deprived of opportunities to engage in meaningful labor, to develop a career, and to pursue his interests and passions. Mr. Mazza has been deprived of all of the basic pleasures of human experience, which all free people enjoy as a matter of right, including the freedom to live one's life as an autonomous human being.
During his decades of wrongful imprisonment, Mr. Mazza was detained in harsh and dangerous conditions in Massachusetts prisons.
In addition to the severe trauma of wrongful imprisonment and Mr. Mazza's loss of liberty, Defendants' misconduct continues to cause Mr. Mazza extreme physical and psychological pain and suffering, humiliation, constant fear, anxiety, deep depression, despair, rage, and other physical and psychological effects.
The suit seeks compensatory damages for malicious prosecution and violations of Mazza's rights to due process and equal protection under the 4th and 14th amendments and conspiracy to deprive Mazza of his constitutional rights by homicide detectives, the failure of their supervisors who knew what was happening to stop it, and the failure of the city of Boston to do anything about widespread and long-standing BPD policies to hide evidence from defendants.