ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Pardon in Virginia Arson Case Sparks Controversy Over Evidence

Updated on January 1, 2016

Many Arson Cases Could Get Overturned

A pardon granted by Virginia’s governor recently is turning up failings with the forensic evidence used to convict arsonists that could be rehashed in the courts for years.

Governor Terry McAuliffe granted Davey Reedy a pardon six years after his release from prison for being convicted of burning down his Roanoke home in a fire that killed his two young children.

The governor said the jury relied on flawed forensic evidence. Later evidence showed that chemicals found on Reedy’s shirt could have been residue from burned wood or plastic.

Prosecutors argued the chemical residue found on Reedy’s shirt and home floor indicated gasoline, proving he set the early-morning fire that trapped his children.

Post-conviction disputes about the evidence prompted the Roanoke Times to publish an article in 1999 that pointed out problems with the investigation. The story caught the attention of former public defender Roberta Bondurant, who spearheaded 10 years of appeals for Reedy.

The case inspired widespread controversy that has mushroomed into at least 56 arson convictions nationwide that are being reviewed because of suspicions about the quality of the evidence.

Bondurant’s appeals included having the original arson report from Virginia’s Division of Forensic Science reviewed by experts from the firm of Combustion Science & Engineering. They agreed the report was inaccurate.

Both plastics and wood contain petroleum, which could be confused for gasoline, the experts said. In addition, investigators relied on outdated and discredited information about how fires destroy home construction material in concluding it was arson.

The more likely conclusion is that the Reedy fire was an accident, the new experts said.

Many of the misconceptions resulted from a 1980 Fire Investigation Handbook published by the National Bureau of Standards that included inaccurate information about fire burn patterns.

A 1992 manual produced by the National Fire Protection Association corrected the mistakes, but not before the National Bureau of Standards’ handbook had been used as evidence in numerous arson cases.

Weak Evidence Suspected in Arson Case

Virginia's governor pardoned a man who might have been wrongfully convicted of burning his home and killing two children.
Virginia's governor pardoned a man who might have been wrongfully convicted of burning his home and killing two children.

Are pardons important long after criminal cases end?

Should felons be pardoned years after they served prison time if new evidence arises to exonerate them?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)