Everyday Injustice Podcast Episode 55 – Story of Joann Parks Wrongly Convicted of Arson Murder

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Joann Parks was convicted for the 1989 arson deaths of her three children and the subject of the book Burned from 2019. She had her sentence commuted and will be eligible to appear in front of a parole board.

In 1989 she was a young mother who lost her kids in a tragic fire. Except the investigators at the time, using archaic methods, determined that it wasn’t a tragic fire, it was arson and therefore murder and, on the basis of this evidence, Ms. Parks was sentenced to life in prison.

But we have learned a lot about arson since then—and we now know that things that used to be taken as telltale signs of arson are now flawed science and were likely, if not certainly, accidental.

However, the system is not not able to correct those problems—even as experts know that the science is bad.

I learned about this case through a book called Burned by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Edward Humes. Tragically the judicial system could not or would not exonerate Ms. Parks, but on Friday Governor Newsom commuted her sentence, which will allow her to attempt parole.

Joining Everyday Injustice to talk about the Joann Parks case is California Innocence Project Attorney Raquel Cohen.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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