INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The state has dropped all charges against a Decatur County woman who spent 16 years behind bars for arson and murder in a 1995 fire that killed her 3-year-old son, Tony.
Kristine Bunch was released on bond in August and was awaiting a new trial on charges of murder and arson.
A Decatur County jury convicted her in 1996 and she was sentenced to 60 years in prison. But in March, the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial .
Lawyers for Bunch had argued that scientific advances in arson investigation showed the fire that killed Tony Bunch in 1995 was not intentionally set, as was thought at the time.
The Decatur County Prosecutor's office filed a motion to dismiss charges, noting they needed more time to see what witnesses could still testify and what evidence was still able to be presented. They dismissed the case without prejudice meaning they still have the right to charge Bunch again.
Here is the full statement released by Bunch's defense team which includes the Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions:
We are extremely happy that the State has dismissed the charge against Kristine. She is innocent. As the Indiana Appellate Court ruled months ago, a jury hearing all of the evidence likely would have found Kristine not guilty.
We do not condemn the State for bringing arson-related charges in 1995. That was the equivalent of the Stone Ages for arson investigations. Today we know so much more about the science of fire. As the new evidence offered by world-renowned experts showed, Kristine could not have set this fire as the State contended. The fire was accidental.
Prosecutors who recognize and act on advances in science, like the revolutionary advances in fire investigations or DNA evidence, should be praised. The public expects and is entitled to justice, not convictions that are wrongful. Those who stubbornly persist in obtaining convictions in the face of powerful new evidence abuse their power and bring shame and dishonor on their office as well as the community they are supposed to serve.
Kristine lost her precious son Tony in this accidental fire. She then lost 16 years of her freedom. The depth of that tragedy is unthinkable. Today is the first day she can begin to heal."
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