Daniel Dougherty: third trial

Photograph AdS

Photograph AdS

On March 27, 2019, the third trial started for Daniel Dougherty.

In 2000, Daniel Dougherty was found guilty of the 1985 arson that killed his two sons, Danny (4) and Johnny (3). Police arrested Dougherty in 1999 after his estranged wife and mother of the two children claimed he had confessed.

A jury found him guilty on capital murder charges in 2000. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed Dougherty’s death sentences in 2004.

In 2005, Dougherty filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the US Supreme Court. Certiorari was denied the same year. Dougherty is an inmate of the State Correctional Institution at Greene.

A Superior Court overturned both of Dougherty’s convictions, deeming his earlier trials unfair. The third trial will be overseen by J. Scott O’Keefe, who was reversed by the appellate court in the second trial.

At the second trial, John Lentini and Angelo Pisani(two of America’s best known arson investigators) said that fires once were considered arson are now known to be caused by “flashover,” a condition that mimics arson. They explained that the cause of the 1985 fire should have been listed as “undetermined.”

John Lentini and Angelo Pisani separately reviewed the Dougherty case. Neither found signs of arson. In their 2005 report, they emphasized the use of outdated fire investigation techniques in 1985. Then-fire Marshall Quinn thought that there were three fires: near the sofa, one near a love seat, and the third one under a dining room table. Somehow he concluded that only one person could have set those three fires. I do not know why.

In 2017, the appellate court said that among other errors, the judge should not have allowed Quinn’s testimony to be read into the record.

This is a case to watch.