Iowa Adopts Arson Reforms


The Iowa State Fire Marshal this week announced new statewide policies aimed at reducing the possibility of wrongful convictions in arson cases. States have been reviewing arson investigation policies in the wake of several cases where innocent people were convicted based on faulty forensics.

The Iowa reforms require that all fire investigations be guided by the National Fire Protection Agency Standard 921, which incorporates the most current best practices in arson investigations, except when this standard is inapplicable or when additional or alternative methods are warranted based on the nature of the fire or explosion.

Innocence Project Policy Director Stephen Saloom today underlined the importance of these reforms in Iowa and across the country:

“While it’s impossible to know the full scope of the problem, we know of several heartbreaking examples of people being wrongly convicted based on poor arson science.  Fires start in many ways that are not intentional, and reliance on scientifically unsound fire myths can result in wrongful determinations that fire victims set the fires.  That’s why it’s so imperative that current best practices be required nationwide.”

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