Tuesday, October 22, 2013

George Souliotes: A man let down by his trial lawyer, let down by arson "science" and forced to enter a guilty plea to finally secure freedom after nearly 17 years behind bars. L.A. Times. (Must Read. HL);

STORY: "Out of prison and into the unknown," by  reporter Maura Dolan, published by the L.A. Times on October 17, 2013.

SUB-HEADING:  "George Souliotes spent nearly 17 years behind bars before his triple murder conviction was overturned. Now he's trying to adjust to life on the outside."

GIST: Freedom came to Souliotes on July 3. Convicted of setting a fire that killed three of his tenants, Souliotes entered prison a middle-aged man, his wavy brown hair starting to recede. When he left, his hair was gray and mostly gone, his posture stooped and his gait marked by a limp from a bad hip. He was divorced, and his children were grown. An innocence project accepted his case 10 years ago, and private lawyers from big-name firms worked pro bono to overturn his conviction. The forensic evidence used to convict him was reexamined, and much was discredited.  Michelle Jones, 30, and her two children, Daniel Jr., 6, and Amanda, 3, tenants in Souliotes' Modesto rental home, died when the house erupted in flames as they slept. Daniel Jones Sr.,  the husband and father, was not home at the time. Souliotes had been days away from serving the Joneses with an eviction notice and garnishing their wages for unpaid rent. Prosecutors, seeking the death penalty, had argued that Souliotes burned the house for insurance money and maintained that a petroleum substance on his shoes matched a compound that ignited the fire. "The shoes tell the tale," the trial prosecutor told jurors. Souliotes was sentenced to life without parole. Years later a scientist proved there was no match. The federal judge who decided Souliotes had shown "actual innocence" overturned his conviction on the grounds his trial lawyer had failed him. After the ruling, prosecutors wanted to retry him for murder, but the state conceded during the appeal that it could not prove the fire was deliberately set, and a second conviction appeared unlikely. In return for his immediate release, Souliotes pleaded no contest to three counts of involuntary manslaughter for failing to maintain working smoke detectors. The house had a smoke alarm, but the victims died of smoke inhalation. The legal odyssey was over, but Souliotes' journey back to life was just beginning......... Souliotes wrestled at times with anger over his conviction. "What good is getting out of prison without your innocence?" he asked. He said he had hoped the state would acknowledge he had been wrongfully convicted and compensate him for his confinement, but the plea ended any such possibility. "How many lies, how many lies," he said bitterly, recalling his two trials. "They have destroyed my life completely."

The entire story can be found at:



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