Some Pennsylvania readers may be under the mistaken impression that once prosecutors secure a conviction and the accused is sentenced, the case ends. That is not necessarily true. Criminal defense teams may continue to fight for their clients for months or years thereafter.
For example, a Pennsylvania judge recently vacated the conviction of a woman who has thus far spent approximately 42 years in prison. She was found guilty of arson and murder back in 1973 and has been incarcerated ever since. However, the judge recently found that the science involved in the investigation of the fire she was accused of setting was faulty. Two people lost their lives in the 1972 apartment fire.
The woman, now 62 years of age, is expected to be released on bail within a few weeks. She must abide by the conditions of her release in order to remain free until an appeal by the prosecution is decided or she receives a new trial. The Cumberland County District Attorney already announced his office’s intention to appeal the judge’s decision to give the woman a new trial. If the appeal is denied, the decision will then have to be made whether to retry the woman. The fact that several decades have passed since the incident could prove to be an insurmountable burden for prosecutors.
Every person accused of a crime is entitled to a fair trial. In this case, a criminal defense team did not believe that the scientific evidence presented in this woman’s original trail was sufficient. Therefore, reasonable doubt existed as to her guilt. When a person’s freedom is at stake, it is essential that the trial testimony and every piece of physical evidence presented in court meets the stringent burden of proof required in criminal proceedings.
Source: pennlive.com, “After 42 years in prison for arson-murder, Carlisle woman to be released on bail“, Daniel Simmons-Ritchie, April 24, 2015