Davey Reedy Granted Full Pardon in 1987 Fatal Arson

Reedy Wrongfully Convicted in Roanoke City Virginia Circuit Court on Discredited Fire Science Evidence

Roanoke, Va. — On August 10, 1987, a fire erupted at Davey Reedy’s home in southeast Roanoke, Virginia. As a result Mr. Reedy’s two children were killed and Mr. Reedy was severely injured. Mr. Reedy was later convicted on First Degree Murder and Arson charges, receiving two Life Sentences plus 10 years’ incarceration from a Roanoke City Circuit Court jury. His appeal was unsuccessful and, after serving over 20 years of incarceration, he was released on parole in 2009. Mr. Reedy has always maintained his innocence.

In 1999, prompted by the investigative reporting of Laurence Hammack of the Roanoke Times, former assistant public defender Roberta Motherway Bondurant undertook Mr. Reedy’s habeas and actual innocence proceedings and clemency petitions. In her pro bono efforts Ms. Bondurant received pro bono assistance from noted scientists such as John Lentini of Scientific Fire Analysis LLC, Islamorada, Florida; Dr. Richard J. Roby, Douglas J. Carpenter and Jason A. Sutula (now with Jensen Hughes) of Combustion Science & Engineering, Columbia, Maryland; and Richard McGarry (retired) of Roanoke Division of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science. Attorney Donald A. Waltz of Kane Russell Coleman & Logan PC, Dallas, Texas also played a pivotal role in the effort. In 2009, Thomas J. Bondurant, Jr., of the Roanoke, Virginia office of Gentry Locke attorneys, assumed responsibility for Mr. Reedy’s Petition for Clemency on a pro bono basis. On December 21, 2015, Governor Terry McAuliffe granted Mr. Reedy a full pardon for the Murder and Arson convictions.

Mr. Reedy was convicted on outdated and long discredited fire science evidence analysis techniques and an inaccurate scientific analysis claiming the presence of gasoline at the crime scene. As observed in correspondence with the Governor’s Office, the determination of Mr. Reedy’s guilt would better be resolved by “reading tea leaves” than the scientific evidence presented in the criminal jury trial.

Mr. Reedy is extremely grateful for Governor Terry McAuliffe’s and Virginia Parole Investigator Trudy Harris’ courage and fairness in looking at the actual evidence and “getting it right.” It is a stain on our criminal justice system that it took Mr. Reedy serving over 20 years in the penitentiary, being bound by the chains of parole for 7 years and suffering the public stigma of killing his own children before justice was served. There is no doubt there are many others like Mr. Reedy who were wrongfully convicted on faulty evidence and were executed, served long prison sentences, or are still serving long terms of incarceration. It is imperative these old arson convictions be reviewed in the same thoughtful and evenhanded process as that employed by Governor McAuliffe.

See ABA Journal “Long-held beliefs about arson science have been debunked after decades of misuse”:

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