Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bulletin: (CBS News): Daniel Dougherty; Philadelphia; Continuing arson/murder retrial: "A nationally recognized fire investigator, hired by defendant Daniel Dougherty’s defense team, has told jurors at Dougherty’s murder retrial that the deadly fire in his home decades ago was not arson. He also clashed with the prosecutor."

"A nationally recognized fire investigator, hired by defendant Daniel Dougherty’s defense team, has told jurors at Dougherty’s murder retrial that the deadly fire in his home decades ago was not arson. He also clashed with the prosecutor.........Assistant DA Jude Conroy accused forensic scientist John Lentini of expectation bias because of his investigative methods, including that a fire is presumed accidental until proven intentional. While Lentini says the lead investigator in the 1985 Oxford Circle rowhome fire, in which three and four-year-old sons of defendant Daniel Dougherty died, had expectation bias once he decided it was intentionally set in 3 places. Lentini look incredulously to the jury and said, “that must be magic, it can’t be done.”


See Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Jeff Gammage' story on today's proceedings: " Philadelphia fire investigators had no scientific basis to conclude that a 1985 rowhouse fire in Oxford Circle was arson, a defense expert testified about the blaze that killed two boys and sent their father to death row for their murder. Nationally known fire consultant John Lentini said that when he heard that a city fire marshal, and then a second, had identified three separate points of origin for the fire, "I said, 'He must be magic, because it can't be done.' " The fire, he said Tuesday in Common Pleas Court, could have started from a smoldering cigarette. Lentini, head of Scientific Fire Analysis LLC in Florida, testified on behalf of Daniel Dougherty, imprisoned the last 16 years after being convicted in 2000 of burning the home.] Dougherty insists he's innocent in the deaths of 3-year-old John and 4-year-old Daniel Jr., that he's a victim of now-discredited ideas about how fires act, grow and travel. The prosecution in Dougherty's court-ordered retrial has relied on the 1985 findings of Assistant Fire Marshal John Quinn, and on this week's support of those findings by consultant and former fire marshal Thomas Schneiders. Lentini, who has helped write national standards and texts for fire investigation, said they got it wrong. Since the 1990s, investigators have been lighting test fires - such as could be started by a dropped cigarette - that duplicate the type of damage and burn patterns found in the Carver Street home. Quinn, who is too ill to testify, and Schneiders, who reviewed the case file, said the fire was set in three places - a sofa, a love seat, and under a dining-room table. Lentini showed drawings and videos depicting a fire condition called full-room involvement - in which a room becomes an inferno - and said it could create the burn patterns that Quinn mistook for arson. The prosecution says Dougherty set the fire to get revenge on two women - his girlfriend, Kathleen Schuler, who owned the home, and the mother of the boys, Kathleen Dippel, from whom he was separated. In anger over their rejections, he destroyed the house of one and the children of the other, prosecutors said. The defense contends that no arson occurred. Quinn failed to recognize advancements in fire science and arson-detection in the 15 years between the blaze and Dougherty's first trial, the defense contends. ........The prosecution rested its case on Tuesday, its witnesses having included Schuler and Dippel, who described Dougherty as a mean drunk who hit them if they objected to his drinking. Jurors were shown photo after photo of the charred interior of the home. They were shown a single black-and-white photo of the boys, lying where they were found in the same second-floor bed. No one testified, in 2000 or at the current retrial, that they saw Dougherty strike a match or flick a lighter. No one said he disliked his children or talked about setting a fire. Dougherty's original trial attorney failed to challenge Quinn on the science, which ultimately led an appellate court to grant a retrial. For most of the trial, Dougherty has kept his head low, taking notes as witnesses spoke. On Tuesday, as he was led from the courtroom during a recess, he turned to his relatives among the spectators and gave a thumbs-up."