TUCSON, Ariz. – A man convicted of starting a Tucson hotel fire that killed 29 people nearly 45 years ago has filed a lawsuit against the city and Pima County.
Louis C. Taylor was convicted in 1972 and served more than 40 years in prison.
He was 16 when he was arrested, and he has consistently denied any involvement in the blaze.
Now 60, Taylor pleaded no contest in a 2013 plea agreement that set aside his original conviction and allowed for his release from prison.
The Arizona Daily Star (http://bit.ly/1C3xsbg) reported Thursday that Taylor has accused the city and county governments of depriving him of his constitutional rights through racial discrimination and a refusal to disclose evidence that could have exonerated him at trial.
City and county officials won't comment on the lawsuit because the case is pending.
The Star reports that since his release from prison, Taylor has alternated between living in hotels and temporary housing and being homeless.
Taylor is seeking undisclosed compensatory and punitive damages in his lawsuit that claims prosecutor Horton Weiss was overbearing for having objected more than 2,000 times, making it difficult for Taylor's inexperienced attorney to build a case.
Weiss and the trial judge allegedly discussed the case privately before the trial, without including Taylor's attorney, according to the Star.
The suit alleges Weiss, who died in 1983, and police intentionally withheld evidence that supported Taylor's claims of innocence.
It says Weiss commissioned a fire investigation report that concluded no accelerant was used to start the blaze, which alone would have cast doubt on the state's theory of the crime.
The suit also says police arrested and interrogated Taylor without an attorney or an adult guardian present for more than eight hours on the night of the fire, in violation of his constitutional rights.
Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.azstarnet.com