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27 Crim. Just. 12 (2012-2013)
The Evolution of Fire Investigation and its Impact on Arson Cases

handle is hein.journals/cjust27 and id is 14 raw text is: he first step in investigating an alleged arson fire
is to make certain that the fire was, in fact, inten-
tionally set. Except in the most obvious cases, this
step requires expert assistance from a knowledgeable fire
investigator. Unfortunately,. many practicing fire investi-
gators in the United States today are not knowledgeable,
and this has led to several high-profile miscarriages of
justice. Ernest Ray Willis served 17 years on death row in
Texas for setting .a fire that was, in all probability, an ac-
cident. Willis was granted a new trial based on Brady vi-
olations -and ineffective assistance of counsel, and when
he reviewed the science, the new prosecutor declined to
retry the case.. (Willis v. Cockrell, No. P-01-CA-20, 2004
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15950, *2 (W.D. Tex. Aug.. 9, 2004).)
Cameron Todd Willingham was not so lucky. (Willing-
ham v. Dretke, 540 U.S. 986 (2003) (cert. denied).) He
was executed after 12 years on the same death row based
on expert testimony that was described by a consul-

tant hired by the state as hardly consistent with a sci-
entific mindset and [is] more characteristic of mystics or
psychics. Other high-profile cases that have been chron-
icled recently include Amanda Hypes of Louisiana,
who was wrongly accused of setting a fire that killed her
three children, and Kristine Bunch of Indiana, who was
wrongly convicted (and is still serving time) for setting
the accidental fire that killed her young son. .
Dozens of other innocent citizens have been wrongly
convicted of arson, but there is no DNA to set them free.
Postconviction relief is rare,. but seems to be happening
more frequently in arson cases. James Hebshie in Mas-
sachusetts had his conviction vacated based on ineffective
assistance. of counsel, and the government declined a re-
trial. (United States v. Hebshie, 754 E Supp. 2d 89 (D.
Mass. 2010).) George Souliotes in California won an evi-
dentiary hearing based on new science/new evidence and
a claim of actual innocence. (Souliotes v. Evans, 622.3d


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