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Man freed after 26 years in prison

June 7, 2012 at 12:57 PM   |   Comments

IONIA, Mich., June 7 (UPI) -- A Michigan man who spent 26 years in prison was released after begin cleared of the conviction that he killed his wife and daughters in a house fire.

Prosecutors agreed that David Lee Gavitt, 54, of Ionia, was convicted based on faulty evidence and outdated science, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday.

"It was a very emotional scene," said David Moran, a law professor and co-founder of the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, which fought for Gavitt's release.

Gavitt walked out of the Carson City Correctional Facility Wednesday, the day after Ionia County Prosecutor Ronald Schafer asked the court to sign an order granting Gavitt a new trial, which the prosecutor said never will be conducted because of the flawed evidence.

"We now know that the evidence introduced at trial was not good," Schafer said Wednesday, explaining that he had the evidence re-examined by the State Police, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and a private laboratory.

"We are very grateful that he came to the conclusion that David Gavitt should not be in prison any longer," Moran said. "He did what a prosecutor should do, which is to approach a case with an open mind and make a skeptical but honest assessment after consulting with experts."

Schafer agreed with the Innocence Clinic's experts that a now-deceased Michigan State Police crime lab technician messed up a test on carpet from Gavitt's home, erroneously concluding it contained gasoline traces. Schafer also agreed that, based on modern fire science, investigators mistakenly ruled the fire was arson.

Gavitt was convicted of first-degree felony and sentenced to life in prison in 1986.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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