Thread: New Technology?

  1. #1
    Sr. Information Officer
    NJFFSA16's Avatar
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    Aug 2001
    25 NW of the GW

    Question New Technology?

    If anyone can enlighten us on what new technology might have been involved here...please, feel free.

    LaPORTE, Ind. (AP) - A couple who served 11 years in prison in
    their son's death have won dismissal of the charges after new
    technology determined the fire that killed the boy was accidental.
    At the prosecution's request, a judge dismissed murder charges
    against Roger and Jacqueline Latta in the 1989 fire that killed
    2-year-old Bradley Latta.
    Based on new technology that is more accurate in uncovering fire
    causes, LaPorte County Prosecutor Rob Beckman said an electrical
    problem may have sparked the fire at the family's home.
    The Lattas were both ordered to serve 50-year prison sentences
    on murder convictions in their son's death.
    They were released last August after the Indiana Supreme Court
    overturned the convictions and ordered retrials, ruling that the
    Lattas were denied a constitutional right to effective legal
    During their appeal, the couple alleged that evidence that would
    have disproved the arson claim was withheld from their defense.
    In the trial, authorities convinced jurors that the fire was
    intentionally set. Arson was initially blamed because of the
    discovery of charcoal lighter fluid and unusual burn patterns in
    the home in Hanna, about 30 miles southwest of South Bend.
    On Friday, LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Robert Gilmore
    immediately granted Beckman's request to dismiss the case.
    Jacqueline Latta, who turned 41 Saturday, said there was no
    bitterness over being wrongfully imprisoned for 11 years.
    "Everybody is fallible as human beings. Everybody makes
    mistakes. There's a reason things happened," she told the
    Post-Tribune of Merrillville. "I've grown a lot from this
    experience and learned a lot."
    Roger Latta, whose 40th birthday is next Thursday, said he and
    his wife felt exonerated by the decision.
    "If the prosecutor had anything at all, I'm sure he would have
    went forward with the case," he said.

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  2. #2
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    Dec 2000
    F.L. CO,USA


    You are correct! There is no real new technology that I can think of that would exonerate those two. Especially after 11 years. Who keeps evidence to be re-examined after a conviction? The only possible way that I can see this occuring is if the subfloor was wood composite construction. That would tend to give doubt to the burn patterns and the presence of accellerant. The article did say that they were rushing out to sue. Hopefully they wont and that adds credibility to the probability that they did it.

  3. #3
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    Nov 2001


    What about the fact that materials used in making furniture can produce burn patterns similar to those left by flammable liquids? Was this common knowledge 11 years ago?

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Mar 2002


    What about the presence of the lighter fluid?

  5. #5
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    Jul 1999
    Flanders, NJ


    What about the presence of the lighter fluid?
    What about it?

    Imagine, if you will, a fire in your own home. An investigator comes in and declares the fire an arson due to the "presence of gasoline in the garage". The presence of anything doesn't mean squat unless you can prove that it:

    1. Was intentionally placed where it didn't belong.
    2. Was intentionally ignited
    3. That all other accidental causes wre eliminated

    Short of that, you don't have a case.

    My guess as to the new technology would be a new electrical engineer that has heard of a project by the National Assocation of State Fire Marshals. They have begun to push for the mandatory use of a new circuit breaker (arc fault circuit interrupter, I think) on all circuits of a home. Currently, the NEC calls for it only on the bedroom circuits. Why? Because most fire deaths occur in bedrooms, duh! I know, I know, the fires could start anywhere in the home. That's the NASFM argument.

    But this type of circuit breaker has a computer chip which sense changes in current ( a conventional circuit breaker works by detecting heat on the circuit). This results in a faster interruption of the power on that circuit, minimizing the potential for a fire on that circuit.

    They (NASFM) made about a 15 minute video last year based on one of my fires which killed 5 people. If you can find a copy, it is a well made and informative tape. If you see it, I'm the old, bald guy.

  6. #6
    Junior Member

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    Jul 2002


    As with every other type of investigation that occurs in the U.S. fire investigations have turned to a more scientific approach. The days of walking into a burnt out structure and immediately pointing to the origin and developing a cause based on experience and without good evidence are over. NFPA 921 requires the scientific method for fire cause determination. The term "Scientific Method" tends to scare people but all it really means is that the Investigator must be able to articulate and prove their findings based upon fire science, fire dynamics and fire behavior. Investigators must also rule out all other possible ignition factors in the proccess. Relying soley upon ones opinion without good factual evidence is not permissible, nor should it be.

    Heat and flame vector analysis is one fairly new tool that investigators are using to help demonstrate and prove fire cause. Also computer fire modeling has been introduced into fire investigations, Computer fire modeling was initially developed as a preventive tool however in recent years it has been used in the investigation field. In the above case perhaps the Investigator did have evidence of an ignitible liquid but he or she failed to articulate their findings or worse yet perhaps they failed to iliminate all other fire causes. The prescence of an ignitible
    liquid by itself does not make the fire an arson, intent must also be proven.

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