Prosecutors had declined to request a new trial for Louis Cuen Taylor on charges he set a fire that killed 28 people at the 11-story Pioneer Hotel in downtown Tucson in 1970, the (Tucson) Arizona Daily Star reported Tuesday.
After Taylor pleaded "no contest" to the deaths in a Tucson courtroom, Superior Court Judge Richard Fields set aside the original convictions and sentenced Taylor to time served. Fields then ordered Taylor, 59, released.
Volunteer attorneys with the Arizona Justice Project had successfully asked the judge to vacate Taylor's original convictions after their review of the case raised serious doubts about the evidence, The Arizona Republic reported.
The attorneys said the new evidence warranted a new trial.
County Attorney Barbara LaWall said she had no doubts about the conviction, but that much of the evidence from the 1973 trial had been destroyed and a number of witnesses had died.
In court, Paul d'Hedouville, the son of one of the victims, advised Taylor: "Do as you choose, Mr. Taylor, but choose wisely and do not waste your new beginning of life."