In the 12 years he has been on Pennsylvania’s death row, Daniel Dougherty has maintained that he did not set the fire that killed his two young sons in their Northeast Philadelphia home. The fight to prove his innocence continues to be fought in Common Pleas court, where his defense team is trying to show that the lethal blaze was not arson but a tragic accident—and that Dougherty should be given a new trial.

Ballard Spahr partner David S. Fryman leads the defense team and is representing Mr. Dougherty pro bono. He said that, since the time of Dougherty’s conviction, advances in fire science have led fire experts John Lentini and Angelo Pisani to declare the fire’s cause “undetermined.” Of then-Fire Marshal John Quinn, Mr. Fryman said, “Mr. Quinn’s theory has no scientific basis.” Mr. Fryman also argued that, had they testified at the original trial, the two fire experts could have impeached the fire marshal's testimony and persuaded one or more jurors of Dougherty's innocence. Mr. Dougherty has, according to Mr. Fryman, suffered a constitutional violation for the entirety of his incarceration.

The district attorney's office overturned the death sentence in this case in favor of life without parole earlier this year.


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