News 08.13.14

Arson Conviction Overturned

Almost 25 years ago, a Pennsylvania man was convicted of setting a fire that claimed the life of his 20-year-old mentally ill daughter. Last week, his conviction and life sentence were overturned based on advances in arson science.

 

The

Times Tribune

reported that a judge dismissed Han Tak Lee’s conviction and ordered that he be retried within four months or released. Lee’s dismissal follows the June recommendation from a federal magistrate judge to retry or release him. On Friday, Lee’s attorney filed a motion seeking he be released on bail, but no ruling has been issued yet.

 

Lee, who is 79 years old, has been serving a life sentence since he was convicted based largely on a fire marshal’s testimony that the fire patterns found at the scene indicated arson. At that time, it was believed that fire from arson burned hotter than other fires. In the years since, that theory, along with what were once considered tell-tale signs of arson, has been debunked based on a lack of credible science to support them.

 

The Legal Director of the

Pennsylvania Innocence Project

, Marissa Bluestine, told the

Times Tribune

that the ruling in Mr. Lee’s case is important as it supports the argument that a defendant’s due process rights were violated if the evidence used to convict the person is invalid.

 

The

Times Tribune

reports that according to the National Registry of Exonerations, there have been 11 people exonerated of arson since 1992.

 


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