Friday, March 27, 2015

Letitia Smallwood: : Pennsylvania: Arson/murder; Locked up 42 years for notorious murders. At a hearing set for Monday (March 30, 2015), the Pensylvania Innocence Project will argue that the conviction was tainted by the deeply unreliable method of investigating fires used at the time - and that "There was no crime here at all." Pennlive.Com.

STORY: "Hearing scheduled for Carlisle woman convicted of 1973 arson-murder: 'There was no crime here,"  by reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, published by, published on March 24, 2015.

 GIST: For 42 years, Letitia Smallwood has been locked up for one of the most notorious murders in Carlisle's history. After this week, that could change. On Friday, a pivotal hearing will be held in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Carlisle in an appeal Smallwood is pressing over her 1973 arson-murder conviction. Police charged Smallwood, then 20, with deliberately setting an apartment blaze in downtown Carlisle that killed two people. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project, a nonprofit based at Temple University that works to overturn wrongful convictions, contends that the investigation into Smallwood's case was fundamentally flawed. In a hearing in October, the first of her appeals, Smallwood's attorneys argued that police across the nation in the 1970s and 1980s used deeply unreliable methods to investigate fires. Those methods have recently spurred a reassessment of dozens of historic arson cases across the country - the Pennsylvania Innocence Project argues that Smallwood's case deserves similar scrutiny. Marissa Bluestine, the organization's director, said while her team's argument in October focused on how arson science had changed, her team's argument would focus specifically on the flaws in the investigation in Smallwood's case. It will take place before Judge Edward Guido.  "There was no crime here at all," Bluestine said. "She has, for the majority of her life, been imprisoned for nothing, and that's the point that we hope Judge Guido will come away from the hearing with." "She has, for the majority of her life, been imprisoned for nothing." - Marissa Bluestine, Innocence Project......... As in Smallwood's first hearing, Friday will again see testimony from Jason A. Sutula, a fire investigation expert. In addition to Sutula, Bluestine said her team would be presenting testimony from Joseph Roebuck, a hospital orderly who testified in Smallwood's 1973 trial. At the time, Roebuck testified that he had overheard Smallwood seemingly confess to starting the fire to a nurse. Roebuck's testimony was an important piece of evidence the prosecution used to portray Smallwood as guilty. But Bluestine said that Roebuck told the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, after the organization contacted him as part of its research into Smallwood's case, that he believed he had misunderstood the conversation between the nurse and Smallwood. After testifying in 1973, Bluestine said Roebuck talked with the nurse herself, who told him he had taken what he had heard out of context." - comments

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