County Attorney Conover Completes Review of Louis Taylor Criminal Case; Finds No Further Action Appropriate


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Review of Louis Taylor Completed

When I ran for County Attorney, I promised that an important part of the prosecutorial reforms I intended to make would be to create a robust Conviction and Sentencing Integrity Unit (CSIU) that, under the prior administration, had only one quarter-time prosecutor reviewing cases that perhaps had gone wrong and needed to be revisited.

I have fulfilled that commitment. Since I took office, the CSIU has reviewed numerous cases, including the conviction of Louis Taylor, who spent 41 years in prison after being convicted in connection with 29 deaths that occurred in the 1970 fire at the Pioneer Hotel in Tucson.

By way of background, in 2013, the previous administration of the Pima County Attorney’s Office conducted its own review of the Taylor criminal case, with a focus on the fire investigation. That prior investigation concluded that modern fire science was inconclusive about whether the fire was intentionally set (arson) or was an accident.

Based on those conclusions, the previous administration offered Mr. Taylor a no-contest plea, which he accepted, and which allowed him to be released from prison in 2013.

The above decisions and actions about the Taylor criminal case were made long before I was elected. During my administration, CSIU commenced an independent review of the prior administration’s conclusions, and of the Taylor criminal case as a whole.

During the CSIU review process, I have remained fully cognizant of the fact that I have a duty to represent my client, Pima County, against which Mr. Taylor has brought a civil lawsuit.

Some people have suggested that undertaking the CSIU analysis was in conflict with my duties to the County, but those suggestions have been in error.

As County Attorney, I am both the County’s lawyer and a prosecutor, with duties and responsibilities that are specific to each role. The CSIU review was just that – a review. I took no action contrary to Pima County’s interests in the civil case, but by undertaking the CSIU review, I assured that my ethical duties as a prosecutor were met.

Others have alleged, wrongly, that I had a personal conflict of interest because, while in law school almost 20 years ago, they thought I participated in a clinic that represented Mr. Taylor. These allegations were wrong. I have never represented or participated in the representation of Mr. Taylor, whether in law school 20 years ago or since.

However, without consulting with me, the prior administration concluded that before I took office, I had a personal conflict of interest that precluded me from representing the County in the Taylor civil suit. And, again without consulting with me to inquire into the facts, the prior administration withdrew from the Office’s representation of the County in the Taylor civil lawsuit and retained outside counsel, at taxpayer expense, to defend the County in the civil lawsuit.

The prior administration’s conclusions were wrong, but rather than disrupt the defense of the County in the civil lawsuit, I chose not to contest their decision after I took office.

CSIU’s review of the Taylor criminal case is complete and did not find any new evidence of innocence. Therefore, no further action will be taken in the Taylor criminal case. I have concluded that where the criminal case is concerned, I have met my ethical obligations as a prosecutor.

Now, the Taylor civil case will proceed with Pima County continuing to be represented by outside counsel.

In the meantime, I will continue to do the substantial work to be done on behalf of the citizens of Pima County – work that is critical to the safety and welfare of our community, including seeking alternatives to incarceration as society’s way out of addiction and mental health problems that do not present a current danger to the community. My Office now will continue to focus on these important reforms.

Laura Conover

Laura Conover

Pima County Attorney

Media Contacts

Shawndrea Thomas | 520.724.5738
Tony Gallego | 520.724.4170

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