POST: "Federal magistrate recommends granting the petition in NCIP arson case," by Mark Godsey. published by the Wrongful Convictions Blog on March 8, 2013.
GIST: "The Magistrate recommended that the habeas petition be granted on three of the seven claims: ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failure to present a fire expert at petitioner’s retrial, ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failure to call additional defense witnesses—after promising the jury in opening statements that he would do so—and cumulative error. The court did not grant the petition on the ground that false evidence of arson was admitted (all of the “scientific” evidence has been conceded by the state to be unfounded), but noted that it had already found [in its ruling on Schlup—see earlier posting] that if that unreliable evidence had not been admitted at trial, Souliotes would have been acquitted.........Notably, the Magistrate recommended that Mr. Souliotes, who is now 71 years old, be released within 30 days if the State does not decide to retry him. Such a retrial, in light of the stipulated lack of evidence of arson, is pretty much unthinkable."
The entire post can be found at:
LA Times story: "Souliotes was convicted after Modesto fire investigators determined the blaze was deliberately set, based on a variety of factors that are now known to occur in accidental fires. Prosecutors also presented evidence that a petroleum substance found on Souliotes' shoes matched a compound that ignited the fire. The prosecutor told jurors the match was “the most conclusive scientific evidence of his guilt." "The shoes tell the tale," he said in closing arguments. But a fire scientist years later determined the substance on the shoes was chemically different from the fire debris, a finding that prosecutors do not now dispute."
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