Woman convicted in son's arson death plans appeal
INDIANAPOLIS - A young mother convicted of setting the fire that killed her three-year-old boy says she didn't do it, and science will prove it.
Attorneys for Kristine Bunch went before the Indiana Court of Appeals to challenge the state's investigation.
13 Investigates first uncovered claims of "Burning Injustice" in another Indiana case. Now a we report on a mother's appeal.
One of the few pictures remaining of three-year-old Anthony Maxwell Bunch showed his wide eyed smile. His family called him Tony.
The little boy died in a raging mobile home fire, and the circumstances of his death are now at the center of his mother's appeal.
Christine Bunch and her attorneys say they have scientific proof she didn't set the fire that took Tony's life.
"She's praying that she just get the right to present this evidence," said Ron Safer, Bunch's Chicago attorney.
Christine Bunch has been in prison for 15 years. This is the closest she's come to possibly getting a new trial.
She's the latest in a growing number of convicted arsonists going after what fire experts call "junk science." That refers to unproven methods used by fire investigators to determine arson until 2001, when Dan Churchward and a technical team found investigators were doing it wrong.
13 Investigates first uncovered problems with Indiana cases in 2008.
"We've got a body of knowledge out there that people are relying on that's incorrect," said electrical engineer Dan Churchward, who was on the National Committee to determine new fire investigation standards.
Now attorneys are arguing whether Bunch was convicted using the same untested procedures.
"No one would get up on the stand today and say burn patterns means arson. And that's exactly what they said when Christine was on trial. We know it's wrong," added Safer.
Using world renown experts with the ATF, Bunch's attorneys say they found no proof of arson, and that carbon monoxide levels in Tony's blood show the fire started in the ceiling.
But the state argues there was a fire trail.
"He pointed out the difference in the carbon numbers. He pointed out every material problem that Ms. Bunch has claimed newly discovered," said Ian McLean, Attorney for the State of Indiana.
The state says also claims Bunch put a chair in a bedroom door that blocked Tony's escape.
For the Court of Appeals, the origin of the fire is the ultimate question.
"Yes. And if we moved forward without the science could we try her on this case? Yes, we could, on her behavior and her statements," said McLean.
It's up to the Court of Appeals to decide who to believe.
"She's innocent. Please give her a chance to prove that," Safer concluded.
A decision for Bunch could come within weeks. She is now serving a 60-year sentence, and is backed by the Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions.
13 investigates' series "Burning Injustice" focused on another Indiana man's arson case. The Appeals Court ordered a new trial, but the charges were dropped after the judge found evidentiary problems.