No retrial in Hina Family Murders

fire fighterThere will be no retrial in Hina Family Murders after the prosecution decided to not retry David McLeod for the deaths of the Hina Family in 1989.

McLeod was held without bond since his 2010 arrest. A mistrial was declared on Dec 19, 2013. The retrial was scheduled for April 14, 2014. McLeod is free but can be retried if new evidence or legal avenues develop.

From the San José Mercury News: “Attorney General Joseph Foster said Thursday it became clear after a review, which included juror interviews, that a different outcome after a second trial was highly unlikely. “Therefore, after a thorough review, the decision has been made to forego the April 2014 retrial and avoid a double jeopardy issue,” Foster said in a statement.”

McLeod was accused of setting fire to a multi-unit apartment building in the early morning hours of January 14, 1989, that claimed the lives of Carl Hina, 49; his wife, Lori Hina, 26; Carl’s 12-year-old daughter, Sara, and the couple’s 4-month-old daughter, Lillian. The medical examiner later ruled they died of smoke inhalation.

Flashover was a factor in this case as well as in the cases of WillinghamRichey,DoughertyGavittHan Tak Lee and others. What we thought we knew about flashover was wrong.

  • We used to think that fire always went up and never down
  • We thought that fire fueled by accelerants burned faster and hotter than other fires.
  • We thought that crazed glass, V-patterns and certain black markings were evidence of pour patterns of accelerants hence arson.

We were wrong. Now we know we are dealing with flashover.

Gavitt’s situation is similar to Willingham’s. Both opened a door and a surge of oxygen reached the fire in the house. It turned into a house on fire. Richey’s case is similar to McLeod’s. In both, a burning or smouldering cigarette might have set on fire an ordinary household pieces that naturally contained combustible materials. In both cases the question is whether Richey or McLeod added any accelerants. In the case of Richey, the use of an accelerant was alleged but never proven.

The McLeod case bears watching as faulty arson detection remains key not just for McLeod but in other cases as well.