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Michigan Innocence Clinic Secures New Trial in Arson-Murder Case

Nov. 7, 2014

“A different result on retrial is probable,” Judge says

Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge James Kingsley has ordered a new trial for Andrew Babick, a man who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for arson and felony murder of two children. The ruling follows a hearing in September and October 2014 at which experts testified that Babick’s conviction was based on faulty evidence.

“The science of arson investigation has greatly improved in the past 20 years,” said Michigan Innocence Clinic Attorney Imran J. Syed, who leads Babick’s defense. "We are very pleased with this thorough and well-reasoned decision. It makes clear that this case turned on the science, and with the state's science called into question, the conviction cannot stand. The state has the option to appeal or have a new trial, but I do hope there is a quick resolution because Mr. Babick has already spent 18 years in prison."  

At the heart of the case is the cause and origin of the fire, an issue that could not accurately be determined when the fire initially was investigated because the science that would allow it to be discovered did not exist.

“The new evidence of the shift in scientific consensus changes the picture entirely in this case. As other cases across the country have shown, arson convictions that relied on what is known today to be junk science should be revisited,” said Syed.

In addition to Syed, Michigan Innocence Clinic’s defense team includes attorneys David A. Moran and Caitlin M. Plummer, Atlanta-based attorney Michael A. McKenzie, as well as students Jonathan Koch, Emma Lawton, William Martin, M. Jeanette Pitts, and Megan Richardson. The Michigan Innocence Clinic has secured nine final victories and eight exonerations in its five-year history.

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