Jury Selection Begins in Retrial of Texas Man Convicted of Arson

October 8, 2014

Jury selection began this week in the case of a Texas man granted a retrial after questions were raised about testimony that helped convict him in the deaths of his two stepsons in a fire nearly 30 years ago.

Ed Graf, 62, faces charges two counts of capital murder, two counts of murder and four counts of injury to a child in the 1986 deaths of his 8- and 9-year-old stepsons Jason and Joby.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed to release 22 of 100 prospective jurors based on their answers to a questionnaire distributed before Monday’s proceedings in Waco’s 54th State District Court, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Graf’s conviction last year and requested a new trial. The court sided with arson experts who criticized testimony used to persuade jurors that Graf was guilty of setting fire to a backyard shed at the family’s Hewitt home. A state panel, convened by the state fire marshal’s office, also found faults with the fire investigation in Graf’s case. It reviews arson investigations to determine if they meet current fire science standards.

Arson Convictions Challenged Over Fire Science
At Graf’s 1988 trial, two fire investigators testified a burn pattern and other signs suggested someone set fire to the shed from outside with an accelerant like lighter fluid. But investigators weren’t able to study the shed’s remnants because it was torn down immediately after the fire.

Experts now say the investigators at trial misinterpreted those signs, which could have occurred in an accidental fire.

Graf spent more than 25 years in prison before he was granted a new trial. The district judge overseeing the case has issued a gag order for attorneys on both sides.

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