FSE 350 Wk 7assignment

George Souliotes JACKSON 1 Wrongful Conviction of George Souliotes Rica Marie Jackson Eastern Kentucky University
George Souliotes JACKSON 2 Wrongful Conviction of George Souliotes This case outlines a wrongful arson and triple murder conviction of Mr. George Souliotes who spent nearly 16 years in Los Angeles, California prison. Even though initially Mr. Souliotes had two trials, the first resulting in a hung jury and the second trial led to his ultimate conviction. Upon which he stood on ground on a not guilty plea and his innocence. This paper will discuss the facts, the methodologies used, the investigation reports, the reasoning behind his appeal, which was granted by a federal court. Case Facts The alleged crime takes place in Modesto, California, on January 15 1997 where a residential fire took place, which claimed the lives of 3 individuals: a mother and her two children. Mr. Souliotes, was introduced as a suspect, for two reasons. The first due to the fact he was the landlord of the property and the second because of eyewitness testimony. "Based on burn holes in the floor, burn patterns, and deep charring, investigators determined the house fire had been deliberately set" (NCIP). A neighbor who lived across the street, Monica Sandoval who first provided eye witness account that on the night of the fire she initially saw either a Dodge Caravan or a motor home drive by the home several times "fifteen" (NCIP) to be exact during the hours of 0100 -0300 am on a cold and rainy night. Mr. Sandoval said she saw a younger gentleman emerge from the vehicle carrying a white pillow case and retuning without the item. And then, minutes later the house was engulfed in flames. Later the man described above miraculously matched Mr. Souliotes physical description. Furthermore, arson experts testified that a flammable substance were found on Mr. Souliotes shoes that matched the material found in the debris of the home. The substance identified was medium petroleum distillates, (MPDs) "which are flammable compounds that can be used to start a fire" (Souliotes vs. CVCB B295163).. The prosecutor's argument on motive was that Mr. Souliotes intentionally set the fire for a insurance payout.
George Souliotes JACKSON 3 Investigation and Methodology Five years after Mr. Souliotes was convicted, further investigation disclosed that during that the scientific method was not used due to the fact it was not made available. The new evidence determined that the MPDs that was found on his shoes were distinctly different form the evidence obtained at the scene of the fire. Also, the witness testimony was coerced, because the original statement given was not of Mr. Souliotes, but later pointed him out in court. During the time of the trial she was facing assault with a deadly weapon, then shorty after her testimony those charges were dropped. Furthermore, during the Schlup Gateway Ruling, there were "significant advances in fire science" (Souliotes vs. CVCB B295163). and therefore fire experts could not properly conclude that the fire was definitely caused by arson or accidental. The Magistrate judge also proved the key witness testimony was unreliable because her original identification of the suspect and there was no possible way she could clearly see the suspect from the distance she was standing, poor lighting, and poor weather conditions During the hearing additional evidence was disclosed about the RV description and it also did not match Ms. Sandoval original statement. The differences were a letter "W" on the vehicle for the model Winnebago, and other features she describes was that the RV she seen that morning had a ladder affixed on the structure and had white curtains on the rear window. Neither of these items were not found on Mr. Souliotes vehicle. The motive for insurance profit was dismissed due to the fact even though he already had a awarded prior court ordered eviction with his tenant, he allowed them to remain in the home during the holiday season. Therefore, there was no reason to destroy his property. All these factors were reasons for his justified appeal. The Magistrate judge provided seven claims of merit of the Habeas petition and granted Mr. Souliotes's release. One being that his trial counsel was "ineffective in failing to present a fire expert in his defense" (Souliotes vs. CVCB B295163). Ultimately the State of California and with the help of Mr. Souliotes lawyers, he was release from prison on July 3, 2013 and finally "on September 23, 2021 he was awarded compensation by the California Victim Compensation Board" (NCIP). Conclusion Mr. Souliotes was wrongfully convicted and received a life sentence which was overturned after 16 years of time served. Due to the fact that his attorneys, the fire experts, the jury failed him and convicted him. Meanwhile the person who may have committed the crime has not been found and convicted. There were various factors that proved Mr. Souliotes innocence from the beginning, but nothing I read stated if he actually had the opportunity to commit the fire or what was his alibi was mentioned in the case file. Because of organizations like the Northern California Innocence Project, Mr. Souliotes is a free man today.
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