|A gun was used in a series of Delaware Park rapes, while a ligature was used in the bike path sexual assaults. Did the use of different weapons help point police to the wrong man?
Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark said, "We don't want to convict anybody who isn't guilty."
But that's precisely what happened 20 years ago when Anthony Capozzi faced a jury in Erie County.
He was charged with raping three women in Delaware Park at gunpoint.
During the trial, prosecutor Sheila DiTullio told the jury, "We have shown you, ladies and gentlemen, this defendant violently raped these women beyond a reasonable doubt, beyond any doubt."
The jury aquitted on one rape, but convicted him of the other two.
DiTullio said at the time, "I think the verdict was very fair."
That was in 1987. Now, we know that Capozzi didn't commit the crimes.
He was cleared last week after newly-discovered DNA evidence was located.
Instead, that same evidence links suspected Bike Path Rapist-Killer Altemio Sanchez, who's already charged with killing three women since 1990.
In those crimes, a ligature was used, and not a gun, like in the Capozzi rape cases.
Clark said, "All of those that Sanchez was suspected of were committed with a ligature; I think with one exception, and in that case, a knife was used."
UB forensic psychologist Dr. Charles Ewing said, "Does the fact that guns were used in those cases mean that the Bike Path Rapist could not have committed those crimes? I would say absolutely not. It's quite likely that a serial rapist or serial killer would change his M.O. over the course of time. ... It's not uncommon for, in the course of the history of a serial rapist or serial killer, for his M.O. to evolve. Starting out with, let's say, in this case, maybe with a gun, and then going to a knife, or going to a ligature, whatever he eventually comes to feel comfortable with. Usually, the killer or the rapist will settle into some kind of groove. And that will be his M.O. from that point on."
The Capozzi rape case was based almost exclusively on eyewitness testimony.
The gun was never found, and very little physical evidence was recovered.
Then-prosecutor, now Judge Sheila DiTullio calls it "the most troubling and upsetting circumstance" in her 25 years as a lawyer and judge.
She adds, "I am truly sorry for what happened."
At the time of his arrest, Capozzi was suspected of committing three other rapes in the Delaware Park area.
He was never charged, but his lawyer tried introducing those cases as evidence someone else was behind the rapes.
The judge denied it.