Another Exoneration in Michigan

Here’s yet another wrongful conviction that has been reversed, but only after an innocent man spent 25 years in prison only a short distance from where I live. He was convicted of setting a fire that killed his wife and three children — even after he injured himself trying to rescue them in the fire.

After more than a quarter-century behind bars, David Gavitt was released from prison Wednesday after his murder conviction for an arson was set aside.

A hearing was held Tuesday and Gavitt was set free around 1:15 p.m. Wednesday…

Soon after he was released from the hospital for the burns and cuts he received when he tried to rescue his family, Gavitt was arrested for their murder. Investigators determined Gavitt set the fire.

But time and technology has cast doubt on the experts’ findings.

The lawyers with the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic put together an appeal they hoped would set Gavitt, now 53 and serving time at the Carson City Corrections Center, free.

Many of the findings which led to his arson conviction came about during the dark days of arson science, as the Innocence Clinic lawyers called it. It happened “during the decades when countless accidental fires were deemed arson by ‘experts’ who misread signs of natural fires,” wrote clinic lawyers.

The prosecutor agreed with the release and are not expected to refile charges. But how does this man get 25 years of his life back?

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  • d cwilson

    He’s lucky he wasn’t in Texas, as he’d have been executed by now.

  • Doug Little

    This is appalling, there needs to be some way that wrongly convicted people can claim damages from the state that incarcerated them.

  • I can’t believe I’m going to use these words together but… The problem with restitution (sigh – sorry) is that when state governments are doing everything they can to balance their budgets (short of making the wealthy still wealthy but slightly less so in any way) I can see them deciding it’s more economically feasible to fight to keep an innocent person incarcerated than to see them released and suing them for restitution.

  • d cwilson “He’s lucky he wasn’t in Texas, as he’d have been executed by now.”

    Now you’re just being ridiculous. He isn’t Hispanic.

  • NoVaRunner

    @4 Modusoperandi

    Cameron Todd Willingham wasn’t Hispanic. But he may have been innocent of the arson for which he was executed in 2004.

  • TGAP Dad

    Can anyone here speak authoritatively on whether Michigan is one of the states which compensate prisoners freed due to wrongful convictions? I know there’s no getting the lost time back, but this at least allows you to re-enter society with a bit of seed money.

  • Michigan currently has no statutory provisions for compensating exonerees.