Apr 2, 2013 1:39 AM by Sean Mooney

The man convicted for the Pioneer Hotel fire to be set free

The man convicted for Tucson's deadliest fire will cop a plea then walk free Tuesday, four decades after his conviction.

On December, 20 1970 the inferno at the Pioneer Hotel fire killed 29 people, one after the fact from injuries suffered during the blaze.

Louis Taylor, then a 16 year old busboy, was charged with 28 murders and received a life sentence for setting the blaze.

Now the Pima County Attorney's Office has offered Taylor a plea deal and after 42 years of proclaiming his innocence Louis taylor will be set free on Tuesday.

In the end it wasn't the uncovering of new evidence that has led to his release but rather the revelation that there wasn't enough evidence to prove the Pioneer Hotel fire was intentionally set.

At the trial of Louis Taylor witnesses testified that when they first discovered the fire they also found the 16year old just staring at the blaze. After giving conflicting stories to police Taylor was charged with 28 counts of murder and received a life sentence.

Fast forward 42-years later and the county, including Deputy County Prosecutor, Rick Unklesbay, still believes they got the right man, "He was the only one there.", Unklesbay said, "He was giving a variety of statements to the hotel workers and the police, inconsistent about why he was at the hotel, who he saw start the fire, then later admitting how he'd lied about seeing other people do it."

But after a decade long crusade by the Arizona Justice Project and a report from the Arson Review Committee the county attorney asked the Tucson Fire Department to do its own review of the case. TFD like the ARC concluded that the cause of the fire could not be determined, not back in the 70s or now.

Fearing they might not get another conviction if the case was retried, the county was willing to make a deal. Taylor was offered a "no contest" plea sentenced to 42 years, given credit for time served and set free.

Unkelsbay says the deal the county offered protects the jury's decision in the case, "claiming they wanted to protect the jury's decision in the case, "The jury spent a lot of time analyzing this case and found him guilty based on the evidence that was presented we think that that jury verdict is correct and we think it is important to maintain the integrity of that conviction."

Louis Taylor's lawyers say their client took the deal to avoid going through another trial and wants to start living the rest of his life a free man.
After pleading no contest on Tuesday in the pima county courthouse, he will be.


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