Criminal Justice

Murder convictions were based on outdated arson science, prosecutors say

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Prosecutors in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office will ask a judge today to overturn the arson and felony murder convictions of three men convicted in a 1981 fire that killed a woman and her five children.

Mark Hale, chief of the Conviction Review Unit, tells the New York Times that arson science has changed since the conviction of William Vasquez, Amaury Villalobos and Raymond Mora. “There’s no way that anybody could testify now that it was an accelerant-driven arson fire,” Hale said.

In a statement, prosecutors said they have concluded the men were wrongfully convicted based on “weak circumstantial evidence, outdated science and the testimony of a single, wholly unreliable witness who recanted before her death.”

Villalobos and Vasquez were paroled in 2012. Mora died in prison in 1989.

Related article:

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

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