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Daniel Dougherty - Pennsylvania
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Thread: Daniel Dougherty - Pennsylvania

  1. #1
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    Oct 2010

    Daniel Dougherty - Pennsylvania

    Facts of the Crime:

    In October 2000, Dougherty was sentenced to die for setting fire to his girlfriend's home in 1985. His two sons, three-year-old John and four-year-old Daniel, died in the blaze. Almost 15 years later, on April 14, 1999, police arrested Dougherty for a charge of arson and two murder charges.

  2. #2
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    Oct 2010
    August 12, 2010

    Another inmate on death row fights to disprove arson

    This is the story of two fathers who drank too much and fought with their wives but, their families say, loved their children more than anything in the world.

    The two never knew each other. One was in Texas and one in Pennsylvania, but each watched a fire swallow their home with their children inside.

    One father, Cameron Todd Willingham of Corsicana, Texas, was convicted on murder charges; authorities said he set the fire that killed his three children in 1991. He was executed by lethal injection in 2004.

    Across the country, at a prison outside of Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, where authorities say they hold the "worst of the worst," is 50-year-old Daniel Dougherty. He, too, was found guilty of deliberately igniting fires in his home that killed his two sons, Danny, 4, and Johnny, 3, in 1985. Police arrested Dougherty 14 years later, when his estranged wife came forward and claimed he confessed. A jury found him guilty on capital murder charges in 2000.

    He is awaiting death.

    Last month, a Texas state board admitted in a preliminary report that flawed arson science was used in Willingham's investigation.

    The board's announcement raises a frightening question: Could the state of Texas have executed an innocent man?

    Like Willingham, Dougherty has maintained his innocence from the start. He is trying to prove he isn't responsible for the flames that engulfed his house and that he is also the victim of flawed arson science.

    "We have an innocent man on death row who has been languishing there, and there is absolutely no evidence that a crime occurred," said his attorney, David Fryman. "We've been trying our best to right that wrong."

    Dougherty and his attorneys at Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, are waiting on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to decide whether to hear his petition for post-conviction relief filed in 2006. A crucial element of the appeal is the reports of two arson investigators who have re-examined the evidence and found no conclusive indicators of arson.

    With science on his side, Dougherty hopes the court will set him free -- before it's too late. No execution date has been set.

    Dougherty's version of the blaze doesn't paint him as a murderer but as a failed hero, who tried twice to rescue his sleeping sons with a watering hose and ladder, according to court records. By the time authorities extinguished the fire, his sons had already died from inhaling the toxic fumes.

    CNN requested an interview with Dougherty in prison, but his attorneys declined. They did assist CNN in reaching out to Dougherty through letters. Dougherty declined to be interviewed, but wrote back, calling his situation "an injustice that has been done to my loved ones and I." He added that, "Words cannot describe the depths of anguish and frustration I feel."

    Is arson science to blame?

    John Lentini and Angelo Pisani -- two of the country's renowned arson investigators -- have conducted thousands of fire scene inspections. Five years ago, they received a call from Dougherty's attorneys.

    Separately, the investigators combed through the reports, testimony, photographs and other evidence from the original fire scene. Contrary to the fire investigator's original report in 1985, Lentini and Pisani argued there were no signs of arson in Dougherty's home. Such expert testimony was never presented by Dougherty's attorney in his 2000 trial.

    In the last two decades, advances in arson science have spurred some investigators and lawyers to question past arson convictions. Some attorneys estimate dozens or even hundreds of cases may have been based on faulty arson science. There are no figures on how many arson cases have been successfully refuted.

    Dougherty's original attorney gave a statement in the appeal that he didn't seek assistance from outside fire investigators. He admitted in Dougherty's appeal that his team had "presented little from which to make an argument for life."

    The National Fire Protection Association, a fire safety organization, reported there were more than 200,000 intentional fires set to structures in 1980. In 2007, that number dwindled to 55,000. Arson investigators say the steady decline of arson cases can be interpreted different ways: Either there are dramatically fewer cases of intentional fires, or arson science has reduced the number of fires being categorized as intentional. This suggests that some previous cases deemed arson may not have been, they say.

    In their report on the Dougherty case, Lentini and Pisani say they believe Philadelphia Assistant Fire Marshal John Quinn, who led the initial probe, relied on outdated arson investigation techniques.

    In his 1985 report, Quinn had determined three fires took place on the first floor of Dougherty's brick home: one by the sofa, another by a love seat, and a third under the dining room table.

    Quinn concluded only a person could have set the fire in three separate places. Quinn declined CNN's request for an interview.

    "There is no evidence to indicate it is arson," said Lentini, who provided an expert report in Dougherty's 2006 appeal and also reviewed the Cameron Todd Willingham case in 2004. "The only evidence he [Quinn] has is his three points of origin and those three points of origin are a figment of his imagination."

    Pisani and Lentini argue that the multiple burning spots were likely the result of a "flashover" -- a naturally occurring phenomenon during a fire. In a flashover, the enclosed room can get very hot, reaching temperatures as high as 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. The room eventually combusts, resulting in various burning points.

    Flashover fires can be mistaken for arson because they leave the appearance of multiple points of ignition, they said. Lentini added Pennsylvania is "on their way to executing an innocent man."

    Pisani and Lentini also reported the origin of the fire could not be determined because of extensive damage to the room.

    The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office rejected Dougherty's claims of innocence. They said a flashover fire requires an enclosed space, but that Dougherty's living room, where the fire occurred, was not an enclosed space since there was a stairwell. They also argued Dougherty managed to emerge from the house without burns or signs of smoke inhalation.

    "We are litigating this," said Joseph McGettigan, first assistant district attorney at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. "The jury's verdict was a proper one."

    The Dougherty trio: 'Danny loves kids'

    Daniel Dougherty, son of a Philadelphia police officer, was born in 1960 and grew up in a working-class neighborhood with five siblings.

    Known as the "outgoing" middle child, he made friends and girlfriends easily. His father's death from heart problems crushed the 14-year-old Dougherty, who began to drink.

    Dougherty never finished the 10th grade. He met his first wife, Kathy Fox, and they had their first son, Danny, in 1980. Two years later, they had their second boy, Johnny.

    Danny, 4 years old at the time of the fire, was fearless and curious. He liked riding roller coasters with his father. He constantly peppered family members with questions. Johnny, 3, was quieter.

    Dougherty was a functioning alcoholic, his family says. He rarely missed a day of work as a mechanic, his family said. He brought his sons to work so they could spend more time together.

    "Danny loves kids, no matter whose kids they are," said his older brother, Norman Dougherty, 57, of Philadelphia. "He loves my kids, his nieces and nephews. He'd take them to the park. He was good like that."

    Dougherty's older sister, Karen Dougherty, 53, invited them over for Sunday night dinners at her home. She said her brother relished in his role as a father. He was the first to take his children -- and hers -- sledding each winter.

    "Our father passed away when my brother was young so he always had the kids close to him to make sure nothing would happen to them," she said.

    On August 24, 1985, the night of the fire, Dougherty was supposed to be at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He skipped the meeting and instead went to a bar, where he got into a verbal argument with his girlfriend at the time (she was not the mother of the two boys). He came home, made himself dinner and fell asleep on the sofa in his living room, according to his testimony at trial. He said he awoke to see the curtains in flames. His children were asleep upstairs.

    He ran outside to get the neighbor's garden hose, but the hose was too short. He tried to get water near the window of the house, but he was too late. Flames were already bursting from the house.

    The glass exploded, cut his arm and pushed him down.

    Next, he grabbed a wooden ladder. But the fire was too powerful. He testified it "blew him down."

    "He was so destroyed," said Judy Sorling, 54, who still lives several houses away on Carver Street where the fire took place. She told CNN she saw Dougherty standing with the hose, attempting to put the fire out. "He kept yelling for help."

    When firefighters arrived, Dougherty was frantic, screaming at police to save his children. His aggressive and erratic behavior worried police. Authorities shoved his face in the mud and he was taken away, court documents say. Dougherty testified he wanted to die at that moment.

    Authorities sifted through the charred remnants of the home and determined the fire had been intentionally set.

    Police questioned Dougherty and his family members, but no arrest was made.

    Are arson investigations an art or science?

    Scenes from popular television shows like CSI often depict detectives relying on forensic science and lab work to draw conclusions. But in the realm of arson investigations, experts say science has played a small role until more recently.

    Until 1992, some arson experts say, guidelines for determining arson were largely based on hand-me-down myths practiced by fire investigators with little formal training. In 1992, the National Fire Protection Association released its first arson guidebook based on years of studies and simulations.

    The guidelines, known as NFPA 921, were initially met with resistance from fire marshals and officers across the country, who believed arson investigations were an art rather than a science.

    "It was gumshoe work, not really analysis and conducting studies," said Gerald Hurst, an arson investigator with a Ph.D. in chemistry, who examined the arson findings in the Cameron Todd Willingham investigation from 1991. He concluded the arson science used in his case was "junk."

    In 2006, Hurst independently examined Daniel Dougherty's case. Hurst, too, believed that the multiple burning points were the result of a flashover fire.

    The fire that killed three people in the Willingham case in Texas happened in 1991, a year before NFPA 921 was released. In February 2004, Willingham was executed. Later, three reviews of evidence by outside experts concluded the fire should not have been ruled arson. The reports stated a flashover was likely responsible for the fire at Willingham's home.

    "There can no longer be any doubt that an innocent person has been executed," said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, which uses DNA evidence in efforts to prove the innocence of people they believe were wrongly convicted. "The question now turns to how we can stop it from happening again."

    From prison, a father waits for a second chance

    In the years after the fire that killed his two sons, family members said Daniel Dougherty changed. His addiction to alcohol intensified as he tried to cope with his loss. He eventually divorced his wife and remarried, then divorced again.

    Dougherty received a surprise visit from police in 1999, about 14 years after the fire. His second wife, Adrienne Sussman, had reported to police that he confessed to using gasoline in the fire. Dougherty was arrested.

    Sussman's claim should have been dismissed because no fire reports showed accelerants had been used, Dougherty's attorneys argued. At the time Sussman went to police, she was engaged in a custody battle with Dougherty over their son Stephen, court documents say.

    Prosecutors supported their case with the statements of two jail house informants who said Dougherty confessed to them in his cell. But Dougherty's attorneys say the jail house informants are unreliable. They point to studies that show in-custody informant testimony is a leading cause of wrongful conviction in capital cases.

    Dougherty's first wife and the mother of the deceased children, Kathy Fox, is now remarried. She said she doesn't believe he intentionally killed their children. She never testified in the original trial because Dougherty's attorney didn't ask her.

    "Knowing Daniel and his relationship with his children, I cannot believe he would have burned them to death," she said in statement presented in Dougherty's appeal.

    So how do lawyers prove a man's innocence more than two decades after a fire occurred?

    The task is almost impossible, said David L. Faigman, a law professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Disproving an arson case is more challenging because the findings aren't as clear-cut as DNA, he said. He said the petitioners have the burden to prove the arson didn't occur and that they weren't involved.

    "Courts are already reluctant to open old cases without something like DNA that is really demonstrative proof of someone's innocence," Faigman said.

    Cameron Todd Willingham's family in Texas is on a quest to prove he is innocent. While the Texas state board's preliminary findings admitted to flawed science, they also found the investigators did not commit negligence. Still, his family is hoping the board's final findings, expected to be released in October, will exonerate him.

    "It will help us with public opinion," said David Fryman, Dougherty's attorney at Ballard Spahr, about the Texas state board's initial announcements. "I think it can serve as a persuasive influence that this is the real issue. It's a scientific issue, and we don't want to have another Willingham."

    Dougherty's fate rests in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which could take years to make a decision. If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denies his post- conviction relief, his attorneys say they will have to go to federal court.

    Meanwhile, Daniel Dougherty marks his time on death row in Pennsylvania. He's in solitary confinement. At 4 a.m., he is awake and listening to the radio through his headphones. By 5 a.m., he says a prayer and starts his routine of medicines for a number of ailments, including stomach problems. He's worried about whether his body will hold out long enough to prove his innocence.

    His food comes through a locked slot on his cell door. He plays dominoes most days. TV helps him get through. On Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, he exercises.

    He occasionally receives letters from his common-law wife, Kathy Halin, and his family. They are too poor to visit him on the opposite end of the state.

    Johnny and Danny, his sons who died in the fire, remain a topic of conversation that evokes "severe hurt," he said.

    "I LOVED (and still do) my sons more than life itself," he wrote.

    He added in his letter that time may heal wounds, but nothing can heal this one.


  3. #3
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Pa. Supreme Court: Judge's actions 'reprehensible'

    PHILADELPHIA — A Philadelphia judge deleted disparaging comments she made about a defendant in court from the official transcript of the man’s death-penalty appeal, an alteration the state Supreme Court called “reprehensible” as it removed her from the case.

    Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes admits that she ordered a court reporter to delete what she calls “non-judicial” remarks, including calling the defendant “vile,” the high court ruling said.

    The deletion came to light when lawyers seeking to quote her comments in their appeal noticed that they were missing from the transcript. The lawyers raised the issue a later hearing before Cardwell Hughes.

    “I told (the court reporter) to (remove) words that are less than judicial because I’m Southern and I say words like flipping or sucker ... ,” the justices quoted Cardwell Hughes as saying during that hearing in their ruling last week.

    The high court also faulted her for lambasting defense lawyers who asked her to step down from the case at a 2008 post-conviction hearing.

    Cardwell Hughes refused, saying she could separate her “personal opinion of a person who toasted a house with children in it” from the evidence.

    In a concurring opinion, Justice Max Baer noted that Cardwell Hughes has repeatedly grilled lawyers who ask that she recuse herself because of potential conflicts.

    “Another similar incident should result in disciplinary proceedings against her,” Baer wrote.

    That point is now moot as the 55-year-old judge is leaving the bench after 15 years to become chief executive officer of the Southeastern Pennsylvania chapter of the American Red Cross.

    She is not commenting on the ruling because she remains a sitting judge until her May 16 start, Red Cross spokesman Dave Schrader told The Associated Press. The organization is also not commenting, he said.

    A message left on an answering machine in her chambers Thursday was not returned. According to Schrader, the judge is on vacation.

    Over the past few years, Cardwell Hughes supervised grand jury investigations into a deadly abortion clinic and a priest sexual abuse case, and she presided over two murder trials involving three slain police officers.

    The Supreme Court issued its ruling April 28 in the death-penalty appeal of Daniel Daugherty.

    Daugherty was convicted in her courtroom in 2000 of killing his two children in a 1985 arson. His second wife, during a divorce and custody dispute, said he had confessed to the crime. The mother of the children supports his innocence claims.

    On appeal, his lawyers argue that his trial lawyer was ineffective, and that he was convicted based on junk science.

    At a post-conviction hearing in March 2008, Cardwell-Hughes told the defense it was her job “to defend the decision of my jury,” according to Supreme Court Justice Thomas G. Saylor’s concurring opinion.

    Saylor said he believes Daugherty at least deserves a hearing on his lawyer’s effectiveness.

    Daugherty’s appellate lawyers did not immediately return calls for comment.


  4. #4
    Senior Member CnCP Legend JLR's Avatar
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    Mar 2011
    Appeal is on for dad who set 85 fire that killed sons

    The defense and prosecution must submit written briefs by May 18 in the appeal of a man convicted of setting a fire that killed his young sons in Oxford Circle in 1985.

    Daniel Dougherty, 52, was in Common Pleas Court for a hearing on March 8-9.

    Dougherty maintains he is innocent of the crime. At the hearing, two fire experts who reviewed the evidence for the defense testified that there was no basis for declaring the blaze an arson.

    Judge Steven R. Geroff deferred adjudication and will hear oral arguments on June 13.

    Daniel Dougherty Jr., 4, and John Dougherty, 3, died in a fire on Aug. 24, 1985, as they slept in the second-floor bedroom of their row home at 929½ Carver St. The boys were found in bed and pronounced dead at the scene at about 4 a.m.

    At the time, the fire marshal labeled the blaze suspicious because it started in three places — the couch, love seat and under the dining room table. Dougherty was the only other person home at the time, but there was not enough evidence to charge him with the crime.

    In 1999, detectives from the police special investigations unit met with the fire marshal to discuss unsolved arson cases. Detectives re-interviewed witnesses, and the district attorney’s office approved charges. Police arrested Dougherty, who was living in Port Richmond.

    Dougherty went on trial in October 2000.

    Key testimony was provided by a 2nd Police District sergeant and officer, who found Dougherty on the front patio. They asked him his name.

    “My name is mud. I should die for what I did,” he said.

    In a formal statement about an hour after the incident, Dougherty told police he was asleep on the living room couch before awakening when he heard flames and saw the curtains on the front window on fire. He unsuccessfully tried to put out the fire with a neighbor’s garden hose, then tried to climb a ladder to get to his children, but the flames prevented him from reaching them.

    At trial, two jailhouse informants testified that Dougherty told them he committed the crime to get revenge on his estranged wife, with whom he argued in the hours leading up to the fire.

    Dougherty testified, tearfully denying that he set the fire.

    A jury convicted Dougherty of first-degree murder and followed that up with a sentence of death by lethal injection.

    At the hearing earlier this month, the defense argued for a new trial, presenting the two fire experts who looked at pictures and determined that the burn patterns were connected, not distinct, an indication that the blaze could have been an accident.

    On cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney John Doyle, the experts acknowledged that they could not rule out arson.
    Doyle defended the original ruling of the city fire marshal who had examined the evidence at the scene.

    “The fire marshal successfully eliminated the possibility of an accident in his testimony at trial. He called it accurately. He had the best opportunity to see it,” he said.

    The Dougherty case has been in court numerous times since the verdict and sentence.

    In 2004, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the conviction and death sentence, ruling that the evidence at trial was sufficient to establish that Dougherty set the fire with the specific intent to kill his sons. The court denied an appeal for re-argument two months later.

    In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Dougherty’s petition to review the lower court ruling.

    In January 2006, then-Gov. Ed Rendell signed a death warrant for Dougherty. However, Common Pleas Court Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, who was also the trial judge, issued a stay of execution.

    In 2009, Hughes denied a petition to overturn the guilty verdict and death sentence.

    Dougherty is now serving a sentence of life without parole, as the district attorney’s office agreed to overturn his death sentence. The defense had questioned the effectiveness of his trial lawyer because he did not hire a fire investigation expert. That lawyer has since died.

    Geroff signed an order in February moving Dougherty off death row. ••


  5. #5
    Senior Member CnCP Legend CharlesMartel's Avatar
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    Apr 2014
    Retrial for man who spent 17 years in prison for fire that killed his children

    More than 30 years after his two young sons died in a house fire, and nearly 17 years after he was sentenced to death for setting it, Daniel Dougherty will get a new chance to prove what he has always insisted:

    He didn't murder his children, he loved them and tried to save them the night their Oxford Circle house burned in 1985.

    Dougherty, 56, has been granted a new trial in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court after an appellate court found that his lawyer's failures so skewed the original proceeding that "no reliable adjudication of guilt or innocence took place."

    His retrial is scheduled to start Monday.

    Dougherty's new lawyers are expected to present expert testimony to show that the fire science used to convict him was bunk, that what sounded like proof of arson actually proved nothing.

    A spokesman for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office declined to comment on the upcoming trial. Prosecutors vigorously opposed a retrial, contending in court that ample evidence supported the original jury finding of guilty.

    In 2000, the jury took only three hours to convict Dougherty of murdering 4-year-old Daniel Jr. and 3-year-old John, who died of smoke inhalation.

    "The important issue here is the science," said Marissa Boyers Bluestine, legal director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which works to exonerate people convicted of crimes they did not commit, and which has assisted Dougherty. "I'm not convinced [prosecutors] can meet the standard that a crime occurred."

    Nationally known investigator John Lentini, of Scientific Fire Analysis L.L.C. in Florida, said the cause of the blaze should have been ruled "undetermined."

    The extensive damage to the brick rowhouse, he wrote in a report for the defense, made it impossible to determine where or how the fire started. What's certain, he said, is that the evidence did not show three separate points of origin, the basis for the prosecution's conclusion that the fire was arson.

    Dougherty has always said he was asleep on the living-room couch, his children in their second-floor bedroom, when he awoke to see the curtains on fire. He ran outside, then tried to reach the boys before being forced back by heavy smoke and flames.

    Experts who study arson convictions compare Dougherty's case to that of Cameron Todd Willingham, executed in Texas in 2004 for killing his three young daughters by setting the family home ablaze. Five years later, an expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission called the arson finding into question, and said better understanding of fires could have freed Willingham.

    Around the country, prison inmates have challenged convictions they say are based on old, disproven science. For instance, in 2014, after 24 years in prison, Han Tak Lee was exonerated and freed, having been convicted of killing his daughter in a 1989 Pocono Mountains cabin fire.

    Dougherty's appellate lawyer, David Fryman of Ballard Spahr, declined to comment on the pending trial.

    Dougherty's death sentence was vacated in 2012, becoming a life sentence, after prosecutors agreed with the defense on the ineffectiveness of his trial lawyer, Thomas Ciccone, now deceased. Dougherty was moved from state prison to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia to await retrial.

    Dougherty was a suspect from the start, but was not arrested until 14 years after the fire, in 1999. That's when his estranged second wife, Adrienne Sussman, then battling Dougherty for custody of their child, called police and told them he had confessed to her. She never testified at trial.

    The prosecution said Dougherty set the fire to harm two women - his girlfriend, Kathleen Schuler, with whom he lived on Carver Street, and the mother of the boys, Kathleen Dippel, from whom he was separated. He destroyed the house of one and the children of the other, prosecutors said.

    Dippel, who was not called to testify, said after the trial that Dougherty loved their sons and that she believed he was innocent.

    Key prosecution testimony came from John Quinn, who 15 years earlier was an assistant city fire marshal. He said the fire started in three places. Dougherty's descriptions of his rescue efforts were not believable, he said, because his body showed no exposure to flames or smoke.

    Dougherty's lawyer, Ciccone, never challenged that testimony by having an expert address the scientific advances between 1985 and 2000. If the jury had heard and believed such an authority, the Superior Court said in ordering a new trial, it "would have had reasonable doubt about [Dougherty's] guilt."

    Now a new court will decide.

    "Trials are always risky ventures, for the prosecution or defense," said Bluestine, of the Innocence Project. "But from the vantage point of the convicted innocent, being granted a new trial means a chance to finally have a fair trial and a shot at proving one's innocence to the world."


  6. #6
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    Forensics Expert Testifies In Retrial Of Man Convicted In Arson Deaths Of His Two Children

    A fire expert in private practice has testified about his forensics analysis of an Oxford Circle rowhome fire 31-years ago that killed two young brothers, ages three and four. Now, their father is being retried on murder and arson charges.

    Thomas Schneiders, hired by the DA’s office to review the original fire marshall’s report of the 1985 fire that killed the defendant’s two little boys, says there’s no way it was caused by a flashover condition as the defense claims.

    That’s when heat and smoke get trapped by a ceiling and at a certain point, 1,100 degrees, everything flammable in a room ignites.

    Schneiders points to a chair near the front window where a fire would naturally migrate. He says it would’ve been consumed, but it was not.

    After looking at evidence, documents, and photographs, he backs the original finding that three, v-shaped burn patterns from the couch, loveseat, and table clearly show it was intentionally set in three places.

    Fifty-six-year-old Daniel Dougherty was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000, but he was granted a new trial by an appeals court.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  7. #7
    Senior Member CnCP Legend Mike's Avatar
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    Jun 2015
    Bucks County Pennsylvania
    For second time, man found guilty of murder in arson fire that killed his sons

    At retrial on charges of setting the fire that killed his two young sons, Daniel Dougherty Jr. was again found guilty of murder on Monday.

    Dougherty, convicted 16 years ago but later awarded a new trial, had sought to persuade a new jury that he had nothing to do with the boys' deaths. But after seven days of sometimes contentious deliberations, the panel reached a verdict that will likely keep him in prison for life.

    Dougherty, 56, who had been sentenced to death for arson and murder in 2000, was granted a new trial because the lawyer at his first trial made critical legal mistakes. At retrial, prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.

    For years, Dougherty has maintained his innocence, saying he the victim of a bungled fire investigation that found mistakenly labeled the blaze arson when his lawyer said the cause was impossible to determine. Dougherty's case had been closely watched by legal experts and defense groups who said the use of old, outdated fire science has put innocent people in jail.

    Prosecutors, then and now, insisted that the fire was deliberately set - and Dougherty, who was the last person out of the house, had ignited the blaze.

    Dougherty was not charged until 14 years after the fire.

    In 2000, Dougherty was tried, convicted and sentenced to death for killing 3-year-old John and 4-year-old Daniel Jr. in their Carver Street rowhome. His death sentence was reduced to a life sentence in 2012.

    Dougherty's retrial came after an appeals court ruled that his original trial lawyer's failings were so substantial that no reliable determination of guilt or innocence occurred.

    Prosecutors say Dougherty set the blaze to hurt two women - his girlfriend, Kathleen Schuler, who owned the home, and the boys' mother, Kathleen Dippel, from whom he was separated. In anger over their rejections that night, he destroyed the house of one and the children of the other, prosecutors said.

    Dougherty's lawyer said advancements in fire science make clear that the fire should have been classified "undetermined," not arson.

    That police waited so many years to charge Dougherty with arson and murder by itself showed doubt, he argued.

    During seven days of jury deliberations, the 56-year-old former mechanic stood perched between prison and freedom, absolution and guilt. Nearly 31 years ago, at age 25, his life became a play in three acts: the fire in 1985, his first trial and conviction in 2000, his retrial in 2016.

    Testimony showed the toll that time has taken. The main witness against Dougherty at his first trial, Assistant Fire Marshall John Quinn, was too ill to testify. Quinn's testimony from the 2000 trial was read aloud for the jury.

    Others witnesses have died, including a police officer. Memories have faded. More than one witness in the current case strained to try to recall a fact that was once fresh.

    Dougherty chose not to testify in his own defense at this trial.

    But the testimony he gave in 2000 was read to the jury.

    Immediately after the fire, Dougherty gave police a straightforward account of trying to get back into the house to save his children, but being forced back by heavy smoke and flames.

    On the stand in 2000, he said he physically got into the burning home not just once but twice. He told an elaborate story of super-human rescue efforts, a tale that had him pulling down fences, fighting off police officers, and running up the stairs of the neighbor's home to try to punch through the walls and reach his kids.

    The make-up of the jury, even after one juror was replaced, was the same as the last time - nine women and three men.

    This jury heard from Dougherty's former wife and girlfriend that he had an alcohol problem, and when they bugged him to stop drinking, he hit them.

    Not called by the prosecution were two men who previously helped send Dougherty to death row - jailhouse informants who said he confessed to them when they shared a cell.

    In 2000 the two provided the only new evidence against Dougherty. Both testified in exchange for leniency from prosecutors in pending criminal cases.

    That jury was asked to believe that for 15 years, Dougherty never confessed to anyone. But within two months of being arrested, he confided in two strangers.

    Hours after the blaze, police asked Schuler, whose young son also shared the home, whether he ever beat his children.

    "No," she answered. "Those kids were his whole life."

    The issue of whether Dougherty was a good or bad father never came up at his retrial.

    The defense contends that 30 years ago, the fire marshal got it wrong. Burn patterns that seemed like proof of arson in 1985 were known by 2000, and certainly today, to be proof of nothing.

    The sole defense witness was nationally known consultant John Lentini, head of Scientific Fire Analysis LLC in Florida. He testified that extensive damage to the home made it impossible to know where or how the fire began. The cause should have been classified undetermined, he said.

    Conroy, imploring the jury to see contradictions in Lentini's testimony in this case and elsewhere, called the scientist a disgrace who would "whore himself and say anything" in exchange for a consultant's fee.

    Quinn's 1985 findings gained fresh support from consultant and former fire marshal Thomas Schneiders. Schneiders, who reviewed the case file, said burn patterns definitively showed the fire was set in three places - a sofa, a love seat, and under a dining-room table.

    Dougherty has always said he awoke to a house on fire, ran outside, then tried desperately to save his sons.

    What's changed between that night and now, defense counsel Fryman said, is what modern experts like Lentini have learned: "Fire investigators are getting it wrong."

    He cited Lentini's testimony about a federal test - criticized by the prosecution as a poor training exercise - in which a fire was set and extinguished in a mock bedroom. Only three of 53 experienced firefighters could correctly identify the quadrant where the fire began.

    "That's how hard it is to read these burn patterns," Fryman said.

    We all live in a clown world.

  8. #8
    Administrator Helen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Daniel Dougherty awarded 3rd trial in 1985 arson deaths of sons

    By Jeff Gammage

    Daniel Dougherty, locked up these last 18 years, has always insisted he did not set the fire that killed his two young sons in their Philadelphia home in 1985.

    Now, Pennsylvania Superior Court is granting him another chance to convince a jury – a third chance, after what appellate courts have deemed to be two unfair trials.

    Supporters have long maintained that key testimony from a fire investigator was based on out-of-date and discarded methods of determining arson.

    Dougherty, 57, was convicted for the second time last year. But on Tuesday, a three-judge panel of Superior Court ruled that he should get a new trial, citing several failings of the Common Pleas Court trial judge, who allowed:

    • The introduction of previous testimony by a city fire investigator who was unable to testify at the 2016 retrial, which Superior Court said violated Dougherty’s right to face his accusers.
    • The introduction of a graphic photograph of the two children, pictured dead on a bed, which was inflaming but added “no additional evidentiary value to the jury.”
    • The allowance of testimony that Dougherty was a drunk who hit women, when that behavior was not tied to the homicide and arson charges against him.

    “We’re certainly pleased and gratified that the Superior Court righted the errors committed by this trial judge,” said defense counsel David Fryman, who has worked years with co-counsel Shannon Farmer to free Dougherty.

    “We’re hopeful the District Attorney’s Office will finally put an end to the pursuit of a case that never should have been brought in the first place.”

    Fryman said Dougherty, imprisoned at the Greene correctional institution, was told of the ruling. “He’s pleased,” Fryman said, “but continues to be frustrated that he’s now in his 18th year behind bars and yet to get a fair trial.”

    The District Attorney’s Office can appeal the decision to the full Superior Court, and potentially to the state Supreme Court. Spokesperson Cameron Kline said Tuesday that the office was reviewing the ruling and had not determined whether to appeal.

    Dougherty has insisted he is innocent since the first hours after the fire, when he freely agreed to answer investigators’ questions. He has always said he loved his sons and tried to save them that night. The fire destroyed the Oxford Circle rowhouse where Dougherty lived with his girlfriend, her young son, and his two boys.

    He was not charged until 14 years later, and in 2000 he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for killing 3-year-old John and 4-year-old Daniel Jr.

    His death sentence was reduced to life in prison in 2012 because of the ineffectiveness of his trial lawyer. In 2014, an appeals court ordered a new trial, saying his original lawyer’s failings were so serious that no reliable determination of guilt or innocence occurred.

    Those faults centered on the defense failure to challenge the fire science against Dougherty. In the retrial last year, the defense produced nationally known expert John Lentini, head of Scientific Fire Analysis LLC in Florida.

    Lentini said that the rowhouse was so badly damaged that it was impossible to determine the cause of the fire and that “undetermined” should have been the classification.

    It could have been arson, Lentini said on the stand. But it also could have been a cigarette, dropped and smoldering in a household of smokers.

    Prosecutors attacked Lentini as unreliable, a consultant who would “whore himself and say anything” in exchange for a consultant’s fee. They introduced the 1985 findings of Assistant Fire Marshal John Quinn, which were supported by consultant and former Fire Marshal Thomas Schneiders. After reviewing the case file, he testified that burn patterns definitively showed the fire was set in three places — a sofa, a love seat, and under a dining room table.

    The defense argued that that was wrong. The case was closely watched by legal experts who say the use of outdated fire science has put innocent people in jail, that what was once seen as proof of arson is now known to be proof of nothing.

    Dougherty was convicted after a 15-day trial, including seven days of deliberations during which one juror was replaced after becoming emotionally unable to go on.

    Upon Dougherty’s conviction, Assistant District Attorney Jude Conroy asked the judge to immediately sentence Dougherty to two consecutive life terms. Common Pleas Court Judge J. Scott O’Keefe agreed, adding a concurrent 10- to 20-year penalty for arson. “I haven’t seen this despicable of a crime in a long time,” O’Keefe said.

    "I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don't care if it's by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions."
    - Oklahoma Rep. Mike Christian

    “There are some people who just do not deserve to live,”
    - Rev. Richard Hawke

    “Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence"
    - Edgar Allan Poe

  9. #9
    Senior Member Frequent Poster Steven's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Huntsville, Texas
    Daniel Dougherty found guilty for third time in 1985 arson that killed two sons in Philly home

    By Tommy Rowan
    The Philadelphia Inquirer

    Daniel Dougherty on Monday was convicted for a third time of setting the 1985 fire in an Oxford Circle rowhouse that killed his two young sons.

    A Common Pleas Court jury of eight women and four men deliberated for seven hours over two days before finding the 59-year-old guilty of two counts of second-degree murder and arson causing death.

    As the verdicts were read, Kathleen Dippel, Dougherty’s ex-wife and mother of their sons, let out a whimper. Dougherty showed little emotion; he climbed into a wheelchair that had been used to transport him into court and began wheeling himself toward an adjoining holding cell.

    Judge J. Scott O’Keefe immediately sentenced him to two consecutive terms of life in prison.

    “The acts that evening were despicable, Mr. Dougherty," the judge told him. "Pure revenge against a girlfriend and a wife. You don’t burn your own two children to death.”

    The decision appears to finally settle a decades-long battle withinin and outside of the courts. At two previous trials Dougherty had been guilty, but Superior Court overturned those verdicts. Dougherty and his supporters contended that the verdicts were tainted by key testimony from a fire investigator whom they said used out-of-date and discarded arson-investigation techniques.

    Dougherty opted for a third trial despite being offered a plea deal that might have made him eligible to apply for parole.

    “It doesn’t matter how long it took for this day to come,” said Anthony Voci, chief of the District Attorney Office’s homicide unit. “The reality is that he was guilty at 4 o’clock on the morning of Aug. 24, 1985.”

    Dougherty has maintained his innocence since that night, when a fire destroyed the home where he lived with his girlfriend, Kathleen Schuler; her young son; and his two boys, 3-year-old John and 4-year-old Daniel Jr.

    In 2000, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the arson deaths. In 2012, that sentence was reduced to life in prison, and in 2014, an appeals court ordered a new trial. Both changes were attributed to the ineffectiveness of his original defense attorney to challenge the fire science presented against him.

    At the second trial, the judge allowed introduction of testimony from the first trial by the city fire investigator, who was unable to testify at the retrial. The appeals court said that violated Dougherty’s right to face his accusers.

    During the trial, which began last month, the prosecution portrayed Dougherty as a jilted lover who set the house on fire as vengeance against both his ex-wife and his girlfriend, who owned the home and planned to end their relationship. (Neither she nor her son was home at the time.) Prosecutors said he set three fires in the house and left his sons to die in their upstairs bedroom. They contended that “accidental” fires don’t come in threes.

    As proof, the prosecution pointed to testimony from Dougherty, who at his trial in 2000 admitted to feeling responsible for his children’s deaths — not because he lit the fires, he said, but because when he awoke on the living room couch surrounded by flames, he instinctively ran out of the house to grab a garden hose instead of running upstairs to rescue his sons.

    Dougherty’s longtime attorney, David S. Fryman, argued that no one saw Dougherty light a match or heard him discuss a plan to burn the house down, or saw him act in an unloving manner toward his children. The defense argued that it is extremely difficult to determine where the fire originated “after even a very short period of full-room involvement,” Fryman said.

    Fire scientist Craig Beyler testified against the three-fire theory, contradicting the conclusions set forth by the Fire Department. He said that when a fire consumes an entire room, burn patterns can be lost.

    Beyler said that after reviewing the evidence, he determined the cause of the fire should have been listed as “undetermined.”

    In an interview after the verdict, Voci, the homicide unit chief, disputed that there has been any appreciable change in the science of arson investigations.

    “The way fire science is recorded and described may have changed, but basic elements of fire science haven’t changed for decades,” he said. "And I think this case here was an attempt by some people to try to use technology and try to use something new to create doubt. But the truth always rises to the top.”

    Dougherty’s ex-wife declined to speak after the verdict, but she hugged one of the prosecutors, Ashley Martin, and said, “I can’t thank you enough.”

    Martin choked back tears. “It feels," she said later, "like justice for those boys.”


  10. #10
    Senior Member Frequent Poster Fact's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    I'm actually really surprised that the current DA went through with this case.

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