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Arson Convictions Are Being Overturned Due to New Arson Forensic Methodology

In criminal prosecutions, the prosecutor and the defense attorney spend time aggregating evidence to prove the guilt or innocence, respectively, of the defendant at the heart of the issue. The compiling of evidence can be a slow game, especially when there is very little evidence to be had. For crimes like murder or rape, generally there is DNA evidence where the defendant may be acquitted on the spot or the evidence may prove complete guilt. Forensic evidence and the investigation of the crime scene are also easier to be found when the crime scene is still intact.

Problems with Arson-Related Forensic Science

Specific methodology of forensic science is useful in interpreting what the evidence means and years of perfecting the science behind the methodology helps investigators, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to reconstruct the crime in a way that may help provide a timeline for the events that transpired. However, arson forensics is underdeveloped largely because the crime scene where arson takes place leaves almost no trace of the forensic evidence that may condemn or acquit an accused individual.

Overturned Arson Convictions on the Rise

Around the country, new arson-related forensics is demonstrating that those men and women who in the past have been convicted for arson offenses may not actually have committed the crime. New arson methodology has debunked arson theories that convicted hundreds of people and the criminal justice system is in the process of revisiting several of the arson cases in hopes of using the new methodology to overturn convictions.

The New Methodology Debunking Arson-Related Crimes

Two decades of research into fires, their causes, and their origins has spread significant doubt on arson methodology from the 1980s. The number of people that may be affected by this new research is unknown because there are many inmates in prison convicted of arson-related offenses, and it is unknown who may have been wrongfully convicted.

The Arson-Related Misconceptions

The following are several of the arson-related misconceptions and the recent research that debunked these myths:

  • Alligator effect: The charred pattern of wood that resembles alligator skin was thought to indicate arson. The larger char marks in an alligator effect showed rapid and strong heat while smaller blistering is consistent with low heat for a long time. The alligator effect was once associated with arson, but new studies show that it can be found in different types of fires.
  • Cracking of glass: Glass that contains tiny and irregular cracks throughout used to suggest rapid and intense heat, which was generally associated with an accelerant. New studies show that this type of glass pattern is actually associated with rapid cooling of hot glass when extinguished with water, rather than rapid heat.
  • Lines of demarcation: Irregularly and interspersed patterns on floors or rugs had in the past suggested arson because these spots would indicate that an accelerant had been used. New facts reveal that these demarcations occur in all types of fires for no reason.
  • Char Depth: The length of burn and the origin points of the fire had in the past been indicated by the depth of the char in wood; the more depth of the char, the longer the burn, which helped to indicate the origin of the fire. The new methodology states that char depth does not indicate how long the wood burned.

The Effect of the New Methodology on Future Arson Cases

The new methodology that has debunked several arson misconceptions has had a powerful impact since its introduction. Since its acceptance in 1990, arson determinations have declined from 15 percent to 6 percent.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

It is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik, if you have been charged with arson. Arson-related cases are very difficult cases, especially when the crime scene has been completely consumed by flames. A good defense attorney will advocate on your behalf and provide you a solid defense. Everyone deserves a fair trial and a legal advocate. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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