Posted 11:11 PM 4/2/2013 : Taylor pleads "No Contest" to 28 murders in Pioneer Hotel fire
TUCSON-As part of the deal to get out of prison Louis Taylor had to plead no contest to all 28 charges of murder in front of Superior Court Judge Richard Fields.
The courtroom was packed, not only with attorneys but family members of those who died in the Pioneer Hotel fire. Also attending firefighters who battled the blaze nearly 43 years ago.
Paul D ‘hedouville II was only four years old when his father Paul Sr. died in the fire. His younger brother was just three months old.
He says his father was an attorney who was doing some work in Tucson. His family was scheduled to come to Tucson and spend Christmas with him. Instead he says they buried their father on Christmas eve. He told the court he didn't hold any ill feelings towards Louis Taylor, but wanted him to know all the things he missed out by not having his father.
He says he hopes when Taylor leaves prison he will make good choices unfortunately the 29 people who died in the fire never had that opportunity.
Taylor's attorney Ed Novak told Judge Fields, "Mr. Taylor maintains his innocence and the no contest plea allows him to do so."
Prosecutor Rick Unklesbay says even though the defense questions whether arson was the cause, "There is significant amount of evidence to show in fact arson did occur on Dec. 20, 1970."
Howard Kashman was Taylor's first attorney during the 1972 trial. He says he got to know him fairly well. Taylor lived with the Kashman's while the trial was going on in Phoenix.
Kashman says, he never doubted his innocence.
"I regret he had to enter a no contest plea when this case should have been thrown out."
In a news conference held after today's hearing, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall explained why they agreed to the no contest plea. "Much of the evidence has been destroyed and is no longer available and so we had to that balancing test. " She added, it was important to uphold the integrity of these convictions and to respect the memory of the victims.
Judge Fields, sentenced Louis Taylor to time served. Taylor has spent over 40 years behind bars.
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