Immunity for officials in lawsuit tied to 1985 fire in Ionia


IONIA, Mich. (AP) — A court says public officials are immune to a lawsuit by a western Michigan man who was convicted of murder based on faulty fire science and spent 26 years in prison.

The federal appeals court says there’s “no doubt” that David Gavitt was convicted in the 1980s with evidence now known to be unreliable. But the court last week also said he failed to present facts that authorities violated his constitutional rights at the time.

Gavitt’s wife and two daughters were killed in a house fire in Ionia in 1985. He was accused of setting the fire but was injured in the blaze and denied any wrongdoing.

In 2012, the prosecutor agreed that Gavitt should be released from prison. There was new evidence that the fire wasn’t started with gasoline.

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