Friday, January 23, 2015

James Hugney Sr. New developments in arson science that have led to challenges to numerous arson and murder convictions across the USA free James Hugney Sr. after spending 37 years behind bars. (This is the case taken on by defence lawyer Justin McShane, author of the phenomenal Blog "The Truth About Forensic Science," which I have often referred to on this site.)

STORY: "Deal frees  East Shore man   from life prison sentence for fatal 1978  fire," by reporter Matt Miller, published by Penn Live, on January 23, 2015.

 GIST: "An East Shore man who served 37 years behind bars for a fatal 1978 fire in Susquehanna Township was freed from state prison Friday after striking a plea deal with Dauphin County prosecutors. James Hugney Sr., now 72, was convicted of second-degree murder and arson and sentenced to life in prison for the fire death of his 16-year-old son. Hugney's release resulted from his latest appeal, which cited new developments in fire investigation science that have led to challenges to numerous arson and murder convictions across the country. The deal that freed Hugney, negotiated by First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo and defense attorney Justin McShane, involved several steps.........Although he entered his new guilty pleas willingly, Hugney did not admit to committing any crime, Lewis noted in his order on the case. Chardo said his office still could have prosecuted Hugney on some evidence from the fatal 1978 fire, but the investigation of the cause of the fire would have been called into question by the advancements in fire science. So, he said, reaching the plea deal with Hugney seemed to be the "right thing" to resolve the case. Hugney's is not the only midstate murder case affected by advancements in fire science. A Cumberland County judge also is weighing a plea to overturn the conviction and life prison sentence of Letitia Smallwood for a fatal 1972 blaze in Carlisle."

The entire story can be found at:

 See Justin McShane's post; "After his trial attorneys in 1979 did not challenge the opinions of the fire experts that it was an arson, James Hugney was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Life in prison in Pennsylvania means that there is no possibility of parole. Life means life. Beyond that, the trial court wrote at the time of his appeal: “We feel compelled to repeat the feelings we expressed in our opinion on Hugney Sr. ‘s post-trial motions that it is unfortunate that petitioner’s life, as well as his appeal, cannot be doused.” Every day for 36 years, Hugney has maintained his innocence. But for the fact that capital punishment (the death penalty) was suspended in the United States from 1972 through 1976 primarily as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), he may very well have been executed by this time."


Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following this case.
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The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

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Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;