David Gavitt, 54, is thankful Michigan doesn’t have a death penalty. He’s trying to come to grips with his newfound freedom. Convicted of arson in the fire that took his wife and two daughters, Gavitt spent 16 years in prison and always proclaimed his innocence. Mark Godsey reported on this case earlier here. A follow-up article here updates Gavitt’s efforts to cope with his loss and a world that has changed dramatically.
Gavitt’s conviction was based on expert testimony that has now been discredited. New technology could not find the presence of alleged gasoline on the burnt carpet from the home. A legal motion from Ionia County (MI) prosecutor Ron Schafer acknowledging that the arson evidence used to convict Gavitt was inaccurate prompted Gavitt’s release from prison on June 6.
Schafer has indicated that his motion was based on not being able to prove arson, not a willingness to say that Gavitt is innocent. This is a curious stance in light of the foundational doctrine of our justice system that one IS innocent until proven guilty. Without evidence of arson, Schafer is first challenged to prove this was in fact a crime and not simply a horrific tragedy.