Watch CBS News

Life sentence vacated for Detroit man convicted in house fire that killed 2 people in 2012

Michigan man killed during mental health crisis, crime falls in ShotStopper areas and more stories
Michigan man killed during mental health crisis, crime falls in ShotStopper areas and more stories 04:01

(CBS DETROIT) - A Detroit man who has spent the last 11 years in prison will be released after a judge vacated his convictions and sentences, officials said. 

Duane Williams, 53, was convicted of felony murder and serving a life sentence after it was alleged he started a fire that killed two people at a Detroit home in August 2012, court documents say

Wayne County Circuit Judge Bradley Cobb vacated his convictions and sentences and granted a personal recognizance bond as the prosecutor's office reviews the case during a new pre-trial period.

The evidence that was used to convict Williams included "the all too common dynamics of a wrongful conviction," according to a release from the State Appellate Defender Office. 

This includes an "unreliable jailhouse informant" who had said Williams confessed to committing the arson and that an interview contradicting the information given by this informant was not provided to the defense during his trial. 

During the trial, a fire investigator testified that there were no smoking materials near where the fire started, and the defense had never received a report or photo evidence of smoking materials. In addition, a fire investigator told the State Appellate Defender Office that "an accident cannot be ruled out as the cause of fire."

"Duane has been unjustly imprisoned and fighting for his freedom for more than 11 years,"  said SADO Assistant Defender Maya Menlo, his attorney. "Thanks to his perseverance and intellect, Duane's unconstitutional convictions came to the attention of SADO, the Cooley Innocence Project, Clemency Investigations, and the Conviction Integrity Unit at the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. After so many years, we are pleased that he won some relief."

The public defender's office worked on Williams' case with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office Conviction Integrity Unit and the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Innocence Project. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.