Louis Taylor to be a free man today - Tucson News Now

Louis Taylor to be a free man today

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Louis Taylor walked out of the state prison on Wilmot road this afternoon a free man after 42 years.

His first talk with the media was a short one, answering a couple of questions on his way to Phoenix and a press conference tomorrow.

He said there are two tragedies in this case.

"The Pioneer fire and my conviction," he says.

During a court hearing in Pima County Superior Court, Taylor was asked about the 29 murder convictions he received in 1972.

Taylor was arrested as a 16 year old and charged with killing the 29 people who died in the Pioneer Hotel fire on December 19, 1970.

He was spared the death penalty and sentenced to 29 life terms.

Judge Fields read each murder conviction separately asking Taylor "do you plead guilty, not guilty or no contest."

Taylor replied after each, "no contest".

By pleading no contest to the charges, the Pima County Attorney's office dropped any plans for a re-trial.

Attorney's says Taylor would win a re-trial because new forensic evidence shows whether the fire was arson is inconclusive.

That type of forensic investigation was not even created at the time of the Pioneer fire.

Some says it casts reasonable doubt on the case and means if there was no arson, Taylor is an innocent man.

The Pima County Attorney, Barbara LaWall, says she still believes Taylor is guilty but concedes it would be difficult to win a re-trail with the new evidence.

She says it works out for both parties.

Taylor is given credit for time served.

Taylor has always maintained he was framed for starting the 1970 Pioneer Hotel fire. 

Inside the Pima County building, some justice will finally be served, when Louis Taylor is able to walk out a free man. 

This comes after new evidence and a new look at what happened inside the Pioneer Hotel.  The week before Christmas in 1970, the hotel went up in flames, killing 28 people.  Police arrested Taylor, who was a teenager at the time, and a jury in Phoenix found him guilty of arson.

Taylor, who turns 59 this week, has maintained his innocence throughout.  In the past few years the Arizona Justice Project took on this case, using forensics to try to show that the fire was in fact not arson. 

Later this morning, Taylor is set to plead no contest as part of a deal to set aside his original conviction.  He will plead no contest, in exchange for his freedom, he still maintains his innocence.

Tucson News Now will be in the courtroom for the hearing, and to ask questions of the Pima County Prosecutor. 

Stay with Tucson News Now for updates as the day progresses.

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