ABA Journal: Long-held beliefs about arson science have been debunked after decades of misuse

The ABA Journal Reports….”Since 1989, 31 people have officially been exonerated—at least in part on the basis of new evidence that they did not commit arson, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

But the registry is not all-inclusive. It doesn’t list the names of people like Louis Taylor, freed in 2013 after serving 42 years of a life sentence for a 1970 fire at a Tucson, Arizona, hotel that killed 29 people. Or James Hugney, set free earlier this year after serving nearly 36 years of a life sentence for a 1978 house fire that killed his 16-year-old son.

Nor does it include the name of Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texas man executed in 2004 for the 1991 arson murder of his three young daughters in a house fire that at least eight experts have since concluded was probably an accident….

And the actual number of people in prison for arson crimes they didn’t commit may be much higher because nobody knows how many individuals have been wrongfully convicted of arson-related offenses based on faulty fire science evidence. Most are indigent and have nobody to take up their cause. And arson convictions, as a rule, are particularly difficult to undo.

Arson cases are not like typical murder or rape cases, where DNA evidence may still exist that not only can establish one’s innocence but also implicate another. In arson cases, evidence is usually consumed in the fire. And a fire investigator can rarely rule out arson as the cause of a blaze, which is often a requirement for overturning a conviction.

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Lentini, who has compiled a list of 55 cases in which he has been able to help people who have been falsely accused or wrongfully convicted of arson, estimates that there may still be as many as a “few hundred” innocent people in prison for arson-related offenses” Read the rest of the story at ABA Journal

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