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Cortez The Killie Killer

Man held for 42 years --- Race played a roll in his conviction

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Man held for 42 years in deadly Arizona hotel fire set to be released

 

Louis Taylor was 16 when he was put in prison for a fire at the Pioneer Hotel in Tucson.

 

By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News

An Arizona man who has maintained for 42 years that he had nothing to do with a horrific hotel fire that killed more than two dozen people is set to be freed from prison Tuesday.

Louis Cuen Taylor was just 16 years old when he was sentenced to multiple consecutive life sentences for a fire that ripped through the Pioneer Hotel, a Tucson landmark that went up in flames in December 1970 while employees of an aircraft company were there for a Christmas party.

Taylor, who is black, claims police pinned the crime on him and an all-white jury gave him an unfair trial. A 2002 examination of his case by CBS' "60 Minutes" found evidence that he had been railroaded and led volunteer legal group The Arizona Justice Project to take on his case.

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On Tuesday, Taylor is expected to be released as part of a deal with prosecutors in which he will be forced to plead no contest in the case.

The blaze killed 29 people: Some jumped to their deaths, others were trapped in their rooms because fire truck ladders weren't long enough to reach upper floors, but most victims died from carbon-monoxide poisoning inside the hotel.

 

 

Taylor was at the hotel that night because he was trying to score some free food and drinks from the Christmas revelers, according to "60 Minutes." Once the fire broke out, police officers and rescue teams asked Taylor to bang on doors and help injured guests get out. Hours later, he was blamed for setting the blaze.

Taylor was interrogated without a lawyer present. The lead fire investigator on the case, Cy Holmes, determined in 1970 that the cause of the fire was arson.

In the "60 Minutes" investigation, Arizona Justice Project lawyers said newer fire techniques found that the cause of the fire was "undetermined" -- that there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that it had been arson.

 

The Tucson Citizen via AP

In a Dec. 20, 1970, file photo, Tucson, Ariz., firefighters battle the Pioneer International Hotel fire that resulted in 29 deaths.

 

Holmes, the lead fire investigator, admitted in a 2002 deposition that his profile of potential suspects included race.

"He's probably a negro, and he's probably 18," he said he told the City Council after the fire, based on years of experience he had investigating arson cases.

Holmes, now 83, told The Associated Press on Monday he still stands by his determination that the fire was arson.

"There's no question about it," he said. He added that the new findings by Taylor's defense experts are based on incomplete information because a lot of the evidence was destroyed. "They didn't spend two full days digging through that place."

Taylor has always maintained his innocence, and he struggled with the decision to plead no contest on Tuesday.

"He initially rejected it," Arizona Justice Project Executive Co-director Katie Puzauskas said, reported The Arizona Daily Star.

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The prosecuter won't admit wrong doing during the conviction. His only way out of prison is to pleade no contest. It's a shame. It will follow him in private life.

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I must be missing something, if he has served 42 years, why does he have to plead anything ? Is his prior conviction being overturned ? why would that require a plead ?

 

Enlighten me.

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From what I understand the prosecutor will not back off of her work to convict the guy 40+ years ago. She says if he pleads no contest he will be sentenced to "time served" and released from prison. Boiled down the prosecutor does not want a wrongful convitction. The inmate says he'll plead because he's sick of trying to get it done right. He just waqnts to get out of prison.

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Terry---- Don't be so obtuse.

 

Do you feel that it was proper for the arson expert to include the race of a suspect as an element of his opinion that the fire was a result of arson? It is irrelevant and unduly prejudicial. It may have been a factor in this man's unjust conviction.

 

Sad. Very sad.

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