Investigators at the time believed they found evidence that he set the blaze, but fire science has improved in the last 30 years, and a filing by prosecutors last year said they no longer believe the fire was intentionally set.
After an investigation found multiple alternate theories explaining how the fire could have started accidentally, the Davidson County District Attorney General’s Office requested that his conviction be vacated. The original conviction was “based on outdated investigative methods and baseless conclusions,” according to a statement released Tuesday by the office.
Overturning the case took years and was successful after an “extensive collaborative investigation” by prosecutors and the Tennessee Innocence Project, the statement said.
“The Court is satisfied that Petitioner has presented clear and convincing evidence showing that no reasonable jury would have convicted Claude Garrett of felony murder in light of the new scientific evidence,” the judge wrote.