Due to a lack of evidence, a man who was held in prison in Arizona for
41 years has been released. A
Gannett AZCentral.com news story tells the story of the man who was accused of starting a deadly fire at
a downtown Tucson hotel in 1970 and, as a result, convicted of 28 counts
of murder in 1972. This man's story is an important illustration of
how the criminal justice system can take wrong turns, leading to the unjust
imprisonment of individuals who have not truly been proven guilty. It
also shows the importance of having a strong criminal defense lawyer who
will protect your rights after you are accused of a crime.
Arizona Justice Project attorneys representing the 59-year-old prisoner
fought to have the conviction tossed out due to the fact that the science
on fires has drastically changed since the 1970s, according to the article.
The lawyers stated that there was actually no concrete evidence that arson
was the cause of the hotel fire that led to the death of nearly three
dozen people. In efforts to work out a deal, the man agreed to plea to
and be found guilty of 28 counts of murder, which served as a pathway
to the individual's freedom. He entered the no-contest plea on April 2, 2013.
The prisoner, who was 16 at the time of the fire, became a suspect of the
hotel fire after a hotel employee reported seeing a suspicious African-American
youth on the premises. The then-teenager was arrested hours after the
incident after he failed to provide law enforcement officer with a good
reason for being at the hotel, as outlined in the news story. He was questioned
for six hours and then arrested for juvenile charges of trespassing, despite
the fact that hotel employees testified at the teenager's 1972 trial
that he had had tried to help put out the fire and carry the fire victims
to safe locations. The defendant stood by his claim of innocence.
It turned out that these factors were not enough to prevent a serious conviction
for the youth. He spent decades in prison before his story caught the
attention of the right people. The news show "60 Minutes" had
aired a story about the man in 2002, which led to volunteer attorneys
at the Arizona Justice Project learning of his case and subsequently working
to get him out of prison. (The Arizona Justice Project, which has been
around since 1998, has reviewed more than 3,500 cases related to possible
wrongful convictions, according to the group's
website.) Just recently, the man's story was again featured on "60 Minutes,"
according to the article.
Sadly, this man is not the only individual who has been wrongfully convicted
and forced to spend a good portion of his life being unfairly imprisoned.
These types of cases have occurred all over the nation. There are many
reasons individuals can be wrongfully convicted of crimes. According to
Northwestern University's Bluhm Legal Clinic, some common causes include false eyewitness identification, police misconduct
(false confessions that were obtained through coercion) and systems that
offer incentives for "snitching."
Considering the very real threat of wrongful convictions, it is vital that
you have the strongest defense plan when you come up against criminal
charges. You need an attorney who is capable of finding weaknesses in
the prosecutor's case against you, including a possible lack of strong
evidence. A good attorney will also be able to ensure that your rights
are properly being upheld throughout the entire criminal justice process. Because
Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Joshua Davidson is a former prosecutor, he is even better equipped to challenge the opposition
in your case. He has extensive experience, as he has conducted more than
70 jury trials and has additionally tried hundreds of cases before judges.
Contact the Law Offices of Joshua S. Davidson, PLC to learn more about how the attorney can stand up for your rights and