- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - An appeals court on Tuesday threw out a conviction and 15-year prison sentence in an arson that paralyzed a Detroit firefighter, the second time that the case has been overturned.

Calvin Jones‘ trial was spoiled because a judge put too many restrictions on the defense, the court said.

Jones claimed he helped set a fire at a commercial building in 2010 because he had been coerced by a co-defendant, Samson Wright. U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara wouldn’t let jurors hear about threats that may have occurred long before the fire.

“To the degree that Jones knew about Wright’s prior assaults and reputation for violence, testimony regarding this knowledge should have been admissible for the purpose of proving Jones‘ fear of Wright. The district court’s determination that this evidence was irrelevant was legal error,” the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.

Detroit firefighter Brendan Milewski was paralyzed while trying to extinguish the fire. Many other firefighters were also injured.

“Justice needs to be served to those who caused this to happen to one of Detroit’s bravest,” said Jeff Pegg, president of the Detroit Firefighters Association, a union.

It’s the second time that the case has been sent back to O’Meara at federal court in Ann Arbor.

Wright pleaded guilty in 2011 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. But the sentence was thrown out because his plea agreement said the punishment couldn’t exceed seven years. It had been overlooked by the prosecutor, defense lawyer and the judge.

Wright withdrew his guilty plea and now faces trial on April 8.

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Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwhiteap

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