AZ: Man Free after 42 Years Following State’s Failure to Disclose Exculpatory Evidence

An Arizona man has been released from prison after 42 years because prosecutors failed to turn over reports that undercut their theory at trial of arson. Louis Taylor pled guilty to time-served to secure his freedom after the Arizona Justice Project asked an Arizona judge for a dismissal of his case last October.

As a sixteen year old, Taylor was arrested for starting a fire that remains one of the most devastating in Arizona’s history. The Pioneer Hotel fire in Tuscon left 29 people dead. The Arizona Justice Project, who represents Taylor, contends that he was improperly denied reports that showed that there were no accelerants found at the scene of the fire. The Associated Press suggests that the state’s failure to disclose this exculpatory information, combined with the lack of evidence that the fire was indeed arson, is the reason Taylor is now free. We can only assume from media reports that the state believed Taylor’s conviction would be overturned in court and so offered him a plea deal.

The lead fire investigator maintains the accuracy of his findings that the fire was arson even though no accelerants were found, saying that the techniques he used 42 years ago are still valid today. At the time of the investigation he profiled the suspect as “probably a negro, and probably 18,” according to his statement to the AP.

Taylor has always proclaimed his innocence, suggesting in a Huffington Post article that law enforcement singled him out, ”They targeted me. All they said was, ‘The little colored boy, the little negro boy.’”

Read about the 60 Minutes investigation here.

 

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