A southeastern Indiana woman who has spent 16 years in prison after she was convicted of setting the fire that killed her 3-year-old son will get a new trial.
The Indiana Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to intervene in the case of Kristine Bunch, who was convicted of murder and arson in 1996 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Bunch poured kerosene or some other fuel in the bedroom of her son, Anthony, and the living room of their mobile home and lit it on fire.
But lawyers working with Northwestern University School of Law's Center on Wrongful Convictions said science discovered since the 1990s shows that fuel couldn't have been used and that other possible causes were ignored.
In March, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled the case should be heard again in light of new science.
The ruling by the Supreme Court means the case is automatically returned to the Decatur County Circuit Court, where it can be re-tried or thrown out.
"We respect the ruling of the Indiana Supreme Court and we stand ready to assist the prosecutor, if asked, in seeking justice through any further proceedings in the trial court," said Bryan Corbin, spokesman for the Indiana Attorney General's Office.
"Kristines case bears eerie similarities to one that occurred in Texas in the early nineties involving a man named Todd Willingham," said Ronald Safer, Bunch's attorney. "Mr. Willinghams children died in a fire for which he was convicted of murder and arson, and he unfortunately was executed in prison before advances in fire science proved he could not have set the fire. We are grateful it did not come to that in Kristines case, and that she has the chance to right this terrible wrong."
We will seek Kristine's immediate release," Safer added. "The end of this long nightmare for her is in sight.
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