CARLISLE, Pa. (AP) - A central Pennsylvania woman who won a new trial after being sentenced to life more than four decades ago in a double-murder arson case was granted bail Friday, but wasn’t immediately released.
Lawyers for both sides agreed that 62-year-old Letitia Smallwood is entitled to unsecured bail of $20,000. But her release was stalled by a pending, unrelated sentence imposed during her incarceration and she’s expected to remain at Muncy state prison in Lycoming County until that issue is resolved.
On Monday, Cumberland County Judge Edward Guido vacated Smallwood’s 1973 conviction and granted her a new trial, citing investigators’ reliance on arson science that has since been discounted.
Prosecutors say a lovers’ quarrel prompted Smallwood, then 20, to set the blaze at a Carlisle apartment building. Smallwood, who maintains she is innocent, did not attend Friday’s hearing but participated through a video connection at the prison.
During the early morning fire Aug. 29, 1972, a 23-year-old woman died after jumping from the third floor of the burning building and a 26-year-old man also perished in the fire.
District Attorney David Freed, who has appealed Guido’s ruling to the state Superior Court, said he remains convinced that Smallwood committed the crime based on evidence beyond the fire science.
“This is not to my mind an innocence case,” he said.
Marissa Bluestine, legal director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project in Philadelphia, said another complicating factor in releasing Smallwood is the fact that she receives dialysis for renal failure through the prison system and is scheduled to have a treatment session this weekend.
Lycoming County District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt did not return a call seeking details about Smallwood’s prison-related sentence.
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