Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Bulletin: Daniel Dougherty: Philadelphia; Junk arson 'science; McLatchy News reports that more than 30 years after his two young sons died in a house fire, and nearly 17 years after he was sentenced to death for setting it, Daniel Dougherty will get a new chance to prove what he has always insisted: He didn't murder his children, he loved them and tried to save them the night their Oxford Circle house burned in 1985. Dougherty, 56, has been granted a new trial in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court after an appellate court found that his lawyer's failures so skewed the original proceeding that "no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence took place." His retrial is scheduled to start Monday. Dougherty's new lawyers are expected to present expert testimony to show that the fire science used to convict him was bunk, that what sounded like proof of arson actually proved nothing..." Nationally known investigator John Lentini, of Scientific Fire Analysis L.L.C. in Florida, said the cause of the blaze should have been ruled "undetermined." The extensive damage to the brick rowhouse, he wrote in a report for the defense, made it impossible to determine where or how the fire started. What's certain, he said, is that the evidence did not show three separate points of origin, the basis for the prosecution's conclusion that the fire was arson. Dougherty has always said he was asleep on the living-room couch, his children in their second-floor bedroom, when he awoke to see the curtains on fire. He ran outside, then tried to reach the boys before being forced back by heavy smoke and flames. Experts who study arson convictions compare Dougherty's case to that of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in Texas in 2004 for killing his three young daughters by setting the family home ablaze. Five years later, an expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission called the arson finding into question, and said better understanding of fires could have freed Willingham. Around the country, prison inmates have challenged convictions they say are based on old, disproven science." McLatchy News;