Victor Caminata, a Michigan man convicted of arson in 2009, was officially exonerated on Wednesday after serving more than four years in prison. Caminata was released in July, but the case wasn’t formally dismissed and Caminata cleared until Judge William Fagerman closed it this week.
Caminata was accused of setting fire to the house he shared with his former girlfriend in 2008 and was sentenced to 9 to 40 years in prison. Initially investigators thought the burn was an accidental chimney fire, but police received an anonymous tip and concluded that it was an arson case that had been set up to look like a chimney fire. Caminata’s girlfriend testified saying that they were going to break up, giving Caminata an alleged motive for setting the fire.
Caminata wrote to the Michigan Innocence Clinic asking them to take his case, and they began investigating in 2011. They found that there was no evidence of arson and Caminata’s conviction had been based on faulty fire science. Since his release, Caminata has been working construction and savoring his time with his three children.
Faulty fire science has increasingly become a reason for wrongful convictions in arson cases. Recently, many experts have called for the review of arson convictions on suspicion that they hinge on discredited science.
In July 2013, NCIP helped exonerate George Souliotes of arson and triple murder following 16 years of wrongful imprisonment. Souliotes was found “actually innocent” by two federal judges after a review of the evidence showed his conviction was based on faulty fire science.
Read more about the Souliotes case here.
Read the full Caminata story here.