With the assistance of the Cornell Law School Innocence Clinic, partner Bill Easton was able to walk Rachel Casey out of prison last week. Casey was convicted of arson and murder in connection with a fire that killed her infant daughter. Her appeal was based primarily on a lack of scientific evidence to back the arson claim.
In 2012, Casey’s lawyers argued in Steuben County Court that the conviction should be voided because the original court-appointed defense attorney, David Wallace, of Bath, had failed to do basic fire research.
County Judge Marianne Furfure denied that request, but Casey’s attorneys appealed the ruling to the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court, Fourth Department, which overturned the denial in November and sent the case back to county court.
The basis of the appeal was primarily a lack of scientific evidence to back the arson claim, according to defense co-counsel William Easton.
A hearing scheduled for this week in Furfure’s court was called off when a special prosecutor from the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office assigned to the case agreed to a plea bargain.
“Rather than have a hearing, the prosecutor consented to dismissing the murder and arson conviction in return for a plea of guilty to attempted arson, second degree, and manslaughter, second degree. The end result of it was she walked out of jail,” Easton said. “She was serving 25 years to life. That was vacated in return for a plea to the reduced charges and time served. It was not accompanied by any factual admission.
“One issue with the evidence was a dog alert to spots of accelerants, but chemical tests didn’t support it,” he said. “There was virtually no evidence of arson.”
Read the full article of Bill’s outstanding legal work here.