Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bulletin: David Gavitt: Mich. Yet another exoneration in arson (bad science) case - after 26 years in prison - thanks to Michigan Innocence Clinic.

STORY: "Michigan arson exoneration exoneration yesterday," posted on the "Wrongful Convictions Blog" by Mark Godsey, on June 7, 2012. (This Blog is grateful to the Wrongful Convictions Blog for drawing our attention to the Gavitt case. HL).

GIST: "After spending 26 years in prison, David Gavitt is a free man. Gavitt, now 53, was convicted in 1986 in the arson deaths of his wife and two daughters. He was serving three life sentences at Carson City Correctional Facility when lawyers and law students from the Michigan Innocence Clinic took on his case three years ago and filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment last fall. After extensive examination of trial records and the evidence, Ionia County Prosecutor Ron Schafer signed a stipulation and order, acknowledging that Gavitt was entitled to a new trial, that the prosecutor’s office is not going to retry him, and that he should be released from prison. Chief Circuit Court Judge Suzanne Hoseth-Kreeger ordered that Gavitt’s charges be dismissed, and he was released from prison early Wednesday afternoon. “We clearly have a lot of questions,” Schafer said. “At best, we have a fire that is undetermined (in origin and cause).”.........Schafer said evidence introduced in Gavitt’s trial to support arson claims was based on “bad science.” “(That evidence) was reviewed by other experts and our own independent experts, who said there was no evidence of arson,” he said. But that opinion is based on contemporary fire investigation techniques. “Fire investigation has advanced in the 27 years since this fire,” Schafer wrote in the People’s Response to Gavitt’s motion. Testing of materials today is more sophisticated and the scientific understanding of how fires operate is different from what it was in 1985. Schafer called the investigation done in 1985 “top-notch,” and the standards used “state of the art.” “Investigators did an exhaustive review of evidence,” said Schafer. “They went above and beyond the expectations for arson investigators in 1985.” The science has changed. Today’s arson investigation is based on the NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations, published in 1992, seven years after the Gavitt fire was investigated. Without a laboratory being able to verify that an accelerant was present at the fire, and without the use of modern knowledge of fires and advanced investigation techniques, it can’t be proved that some ignitable liquid, such as gasoline, was used to start the fire, Schafer said. As a result, his office would not be able to charge Gavitt with arson."

The entire post can be found at:


I am monitoring this case. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments.

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:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

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Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.