Woman Gets New Trial In 1996 Murder, Arson Case

Experts Say New Science Shows She Didn't Set Fire

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 has been granted a new trial.

The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled the case against Kristine Bunch should be heard again in light of new science.

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 other possible causes were ignored.

Bunch’s attorney, Ronald Safer, said the Court of Appeals ruled in her favor for two main reasons.

"One, critical evidence that exonerated her was withheld by the ATF at the original trial and (two), because new scientific evidence proves she could not have committed that crime,” Safer said.

A Decatur County jury convicted Bunch of murder and arson in 1996, and she was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the Indiana Court of Appeals ruling, and we will continue to vigorously defend Kristine to ensure that we right this terrible injustice,” Safer said. “We will not rest until Kristine is back home where she belongs. To think that she's pretty close to freedom after having been incarcerated for 16 years for a crime she didn't commit, it's a really moving day."

The state can appeal the ruling or decide to pursue a new trial.

The Office of the Indiana Attorney General issued a statement Wednesday about the trial.

“The State respectfully disagrees with the majority’s opinion and largely agrees with the dissenting opinion’s analysis of the issues. In the State’s view, Bunch is not entitled to a new trial. The State is carefully examining the lengthy opinion in order to determine whether to ask the Court of Appeals to rehear the case, or to seek further review in the Indiana Supreme Court. The State has 30 days to file a petition for rehearing or transfer,” said Attorney General spokesman Bryan Corbin.

Safer said pending the court’s decision, Bunch’s freedom could come in a matter of weeks.

Print this article Back to Top