Man to Go Free 42 Years After Shaky Arson Conviction

Louis Taylor enters plea in deadly 1970 hotel fire in Arizona

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 2, 2013 2:34 PM CDT

(Newser) – Louis Taylor is about to leave prison for the first time since he was 16 years old, after spending almost 43 years in prison for an arson that he has always claimed he never committed—and which experts now say might not have even been arson at all. Taylor was convicted for a 1970 blaze that killed 28 people and destroyed a historic hotel in Tucson. The then-teenager was in the hotel, even though he wasn't a guest, and had a matchbook in his pocket. He told police during what he recalled as "very tough" interrogations that he'd seen someone else start the fire, CNN recounts.

Taylor was sentenced to life in prison. But the judge has long expressed skepticism about the case, telling 60 Minutes recently that the evidence wasn't strong enough to convict—he's even sent Taylor Christmas gifts and law books, the AP reports. Forensic experts, meanwhile, have said that the original trial's experts "used methods no longer valid in the science of today" to declare the blaze as arson." Today, all that media scrutiny finally resulted in action, as Taylor entered a plea of no contest, in a deal that will see him released from prison at last.

In a Dec. 20, 1970, file photo Tucson firefighters apply a steady stream of water during the Pioneer International Hotel fire.
In a Dec. 20, 1970, file photo Tucson firefighters apply a steady stream of water during the Pioneer International Hotel fire.   (AP Photo/The Tucson Citizen, file)
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