Man Cleared of Wrongdoing After Almost 40 Years Behind Bars

Man Cleared of Wrongdoing After Almost 40 Years Behind Bars

( – In 1984, a fire erupted inside a rowhouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during the wee hours of the morning. Harold Staten and others escaped the blaze, but Charles Harris died from severe burns just a few days later. An investigation determined the cause of the fire was arson, and Staten was sentenced to life for the alleged crime and Harris’ death. Nearly 40 years later, he is a free man.

On February 6, ABC News reported that a second look at the investigation showed that the fire was not the result of arson but was undetermined instead. The Pennsylvania Innocence Project told the outlet that it’s “likely that no crime even occurred.” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that investigators used flawed science and shaky testimony to get the conviction.

The DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) started looking at Staten’s case in 2022 after a petition compelled them to do so. New investigative standards regarding fires showed that the defendant was not responsible for the blaze.

Prosecutors at the time reportedly concluded that Staten started the fire because of an argument, alleging the defendant poured accelerant in the home and set it on fire. Witness testimony also fell apart, as the district attorney’s office found that the account was given by someone who was severely drunk that night. Assistant District Attorney Carry Wood said her office concluded after looking at further data that there was “little credible information” to support Staten’s conviction.

The man, now 71 years old, put his face in his hands and cried when the judge announced he was now free. His son, Harold DeBose, was also emotional during the event, praising God for his dad’s new freedom.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Exoneration Project Attorney Amelia Maxfield said she was “elated” with the outcome, adding it was a long road waiting for “fire science to catch up” and exonerate Staten.

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