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[00:00:01]

Hi, it's me, Jason Flom, and I have a quick update for you. We are shuffling the decks a little bit and now wrongful conviction with Jason Pflaum is going to be released on Mondays. And wrongful conviction junk science is moving to Wednesdays. Stay tuned because there will be more exciting developments coming up soon from a lot of forgood podcasts. In the summer of nineteen ninety five, twenty one year old single mom, Christine Bunch was living in a trailer in Greensburg, Indiana, with her three year old son, Tony.

[00:00:36]

In the early morning hours of July 30th, an electrical fire began between the roof and the ceiling tiles when the fire caused one of the ceiling tiles to fall in Tony's bedroom. A cloud of carbon monoxide gas killed the little boy before the fire even could. Christine awoke in a carbon monoxide haze, desperately trying to save Tony after failed attempts at extinguishing the fire. She ran for help. Then she smashed Tony's bedroom window. But it was too late.

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She was barefoot, homeless and deep in despair. Arson investigator Brian Frank used what is widely now known as junk science to point the blame for Tony's death squarely at Christine. So six days after losing her three year old boy and nearly everything she ever had, Christine lost her freedom as well. With no potential alibi or eyewitnesses, the state easily sealed Christine's fate with the testimony of Brian Frank, an ATF forensic analyst, William Cannard. Christine gave birth to her son Trent just a few months after being sent to prison and a decade passed before her attorney and a team from the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University uncovered an egregious Brady violation and blatantly false testimony, bringing Christine after 17 years, one month and 16 days behind bars.

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This is wrongful conviction. What, Jason? You know, we create these podcasts with the aim to educate as well as to inspire action. Now, we'd love to hear from you. We'd love for other listeners to hear what you've been inspired by when listening to these incredible human stories and what you've been inspired to do. Have you written a letter, talk to a friend or parent about it? Have you donated money or dedicated some of your time?

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What's your story? Come leave all of us a note in the review section of Apple podcast. Tell us how you've been moved. And and remember, and I truly mean this. No action, no story is too small to share. What's yours.

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This episode is sponsored by AIG, a leading global insurance company, and Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, a leading international law firm. The AIG pro bono program provides free legal services and other support to many non-profit organizations and individuals most in need, and recently announced that working to reform the criminal justice system will become a key pillar of the program's mission. Paul Weiss has long had an unwavering commitment to providing impactful, pro bono legal assistance to the most vulnerable members of our society and in support of the public interest, including extensive work in the criminal justice area.

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Welcome back to wrongful conviction with Chasing Farm, that's me, of course, and today you're going to hear a story that is heartbreaking and tragic as it was preventable. And it's a remarkable look inside the systemic flaws, as well as human errors that lead to wrongful convictions. And in this case, we're going to be telling the story of one of my favorite human beings who is doing amazing things in the world now. And so I'm absolutely thrilled to have you on the show today.

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Christine Bunch, thank you so much. I'm happy to be here. And with Christine is someone whose name you'll recognize, Ron Safer. Ron is a former US attorney turned corporate lawyer turned justice fighter. And you'll recognize him because he was a huge part of the exoneration of Julie Ray, an episode that if you haven't heard, I hope you'll go back and listen. So, Ron, welcome back. My pleasure to be here. Thank you, Jason.

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And let's get right into it.

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So, Christine, you grew up in Indiana, right? And then things took a crazy turn when my parents divorced. But for the most part, I was happy and it was good.

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Christine, at the time of this unspeakable tragedy, you were a young mother living in a trailer just really starting your life. Twenty one years old, right? That's correct. I was working and going to school and I had a beautiful three year old son named Tommy.

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And then the worst nightmare that any parent can possibly wake up in a cold sweat from actually happened.

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And Ron, can you tell us about that awful morning of June 30th, 1995? What happened was Christine and Tony had gone to sleep together on a couch in the living room area of the trailer. Before Christine woke up, Tony had moved to the front room, which was a separate room from the living room. Christine awoke to a sound and a small fire. She was disoriented, but she saw the small fire and she tried to put it out with a pillow and couldn't do that.

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So she tried to smother the fire with a blanket and that didn't work either. Carbon monoxide is intoxicating. Christine was undoubtedly affected by this carbon monoxide. She's trying to put out the fire. She can't find the fire extinguisher. She knows with the fire extinguisher she can't find it.

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So by that time, the fire had grown into a wall between her and Tony and she could not get to them. So she frantically went out of the trailer, tried to get help, and then tried to break the window into the front room so that she could get to Tony. But it was too late and Tony had perished. It's impossible to even conceive of the horror and the panic in a in a time like that, even if you didn't have kids like waking up to a fire.

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Christine, what are your memories of that awful night now? Twenty five years ago. I think the thing that sticks with me the most is it was just normal. I came home from school and I got Tony from the babysitter and we went home and we cooked and. I think we watched on TV and did some laundry and we fell asleep, I read in the story and he wasn't feeling really well and we fell asleep on the couch under the air conditioner and everything just seemed normal.

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He didn't realize that you were going to wake up and your your whole world would be turned upside down.

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Yeah. I mean, your whole world was really destroyed at a time when the community and the system should have been coming to help you in every conceivable way. Instead, you were exposed to and victimized by the worst that the system has to offer. And it's so important that you're here because this arson, quote unquote, science that they used in order to frame you and and wrongfully convicted for a crime that never even occurred is something that we need to focus on because we need awareness among everyone, because someday you may find yourself on a jury and you may be presented with this same junk science.

[00:08:27]

So fire investigation was an apprentice, thought they were what would be regarded as common knowledge and industry standards that were passed down from generation to generation. Virtually none of those conventional wisdom were true. And when tested by scientific principles, they were all debunked. Unfortunately, that came too late for Christie.

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And this starts with a fire investigator named Brian Frank. So what Frank did was the day of this fire and keep in mind, this trailer was completely incinerated. He comes into the trailer and just plucks things out of thin air. He says, oh, this this is a burn pattern on the floor. That's evidence of a liquid accelerant like gasoline. Oh, there's a V pattern on the wall that is fire burned up in a V pattern. And therefore, because they were two of these, there were two points of origin.

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A normal accidental fire will have one point of origin. Sometimes if a fire was intentionally set, it will have to point to barge and says, oops, here, the fire burned down. That is a sign of a liquid accelerant. For all of these reasons, I conclude this was not an accidental fire. This was intentionally set because as you said at the beginning, Jason, unlike many crimes like a robbery or a fraud or a murder, the question in an arson is, was a crime even committed?

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And upon that threshold question, rest the lives of hundreds of people, including Christine, to become a licensed arson investigator.

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You can take a 40 hour correspondence course. You can't become a manicurist. You can't become anything in 40 hours. It's not. And the idea that they've been relying on these charlatans, I mean, they'd be better off consulting with psychics or just guessing.

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And I think in Christine's case, there's so many other problems, right? There's tunnel vision, withholding of exculpatory evidence, which is something that I think should be considered a felony, multiple incompetent investigators who pass themselves off as experts and then it gets worse from there. So there you are outside the house in minutes, moments, your life has gone from a good life to the worst imaginable scenario. You're just in shock and you don't really believe what people are telling you because they kept telling me, no, you you can't go in and know we can get him and know he is alive.

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And of course, as a parent, you don't want to believe that. People on the outside want to look at it and say, well, if this was done differently or if you had acted this way, and I mean for myself, I have played it over and over and over and over again.

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In my mind, I still every day that I wake up, play it over in my mind, and I don't know how to come up with a different scenario when you're in that moment and the terror paralyzes you.

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You don't know what you would do, so it's easy to stand outside and say this should never happened and somebody has to be blamed. Right, because the alternative is incomprehensible to most people. Why an innocent baby would be taken from us. Christine, that six days in hell, right? Six days for you between the fire and the loss of your child and the time that you're arrested. What were those six days like? What were you doing? I went with my parents to.

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Planned a funeral. And my mom and dad really went through how the service was going to be, and I just remember sitting there and crying and then I told them that I wanted a song played something that I sang with Tony. And he said, we can play whatever you want.

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And then I had to go get clothes to wear to a funeral at that time, I was still walking around barefoot because I literally lost everything and everybody was trying to comfort you and give you advice and. It just doesn't cover you. So you feel more alone than ever. Because you don't want to hurt their feelings, but everything they're saying to you, does it penetrate. The police didn't help because they followed me everywhere I went. And talk to everybody after I left and they even showed up at my son's funeral and burial.

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They came to me before I even got out of the hospital and told me that it was an arson. They literally wanted a list of all my family and friends, anybody that could have possibly done it.

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Then they come back to me and say, no, you're the person you're under arrest for this. And in a small town, once they make her and and the headline on the paper in a small community. In that community's mind, you're guilty. So now you're arrested. How long were you held before the trial? Were you able to bail out? I was in there from July six to October, mid-October. I bonded out on a fifty thousand dollar cash bond.

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I tell my son Trent all the time that he's the miracle that saved me. But when I got out. I certainly didn't care if I lived or died, and so I was drinking and doing a lot of self medicating because I just didn't want to feel any more. And in the midst of that, I started getting sick, and that's when I discovered I was pregnant. Yeah, and that's the worst possible scenario, although now, as you said, it turns out to be the thing that saved you and we'll get into more of that later.

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But, Ron, this trial is full of I mean, again, it's horseshit. The stuff that they were spewing from the stand.

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It began with the prosecutor standing in front of the jury and saying motive is not an element of the crime. We don't have to prove motive. People tend not to commit crimes for no reason. And of course, they investigated Christine and her motive for this crime and they found that she was a good, loving, caring, wonderful mother and that she and Tony had a beautiful relationship. Everybody said that universally. And so they're left with telling the jury, OK, Christine committed this horrific crime for no reason, but we don't have to prove motive.

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Then their case depended one hundred percent on this, quote unquote, expert testimony because Christine didn't set this fire. So, of course, nobody saw her set the fire. Nobody saw her prepare to set the fire. Nobody heard her talk about setting the fire. Nobody afterwards. There was no physical evidence, no forensic evidence, no nothing. The trailer wasn't insured. She lost all of their possessions. She lost, of course, the person who meant most to her in the world.

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So they were left with this expert testimony, these absurd fire investigation myths, which should have and could have been dispelled by a defense attorney or a competent defense expert. But there was something else that was critical in this trial that would have been difficult for a defense attorney to combat. They took ten samples from the trailer, from the floor of the trailer, from the carpet of the trailer, from Christine's nightgown. And they tested it for various accelerants.

[00:17:48]

There was no gasoline. There was no inflammatory substance of any kind on Christine's nightgown, even though they said that she would splash this accelerant all around. But they were too positive samples. And those samples, by the way, were given to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ATF, who federally investigates arson crimes. And they have special laboratories. And they did gas chromatography on these samples. And they presented the evidence at trial that there were two positive tests for what they called a heavy petroleum distillate, like jet fuel or something else, specifically not kerosene.

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And that was found in the living room area and critically in the front room, the room where Tony was found. Now, there is reason for there to be kerosene in the living room because the prior owners of this trailer testified that they had a kerosene heater and that the overfilled it from time to time. Kerosene does not evaporate. And so even from years before, there would be kerosene in the wood. But there's no explanation for a heavy petroleum distillate like jet fuel.

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And there is absolutely no innocent explanation for there to be a heavy petroleum distillate in the front room, Tony's bedroom. And that was critical evidence that was not refuted by the defense attorney. And on the strength of that expert testimony and these critical lab determinations, Christine was convicted.

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And then, of course, March 4th, nineteen ninety six. Twenty two year old. Pregnant, Christine. Was convicted of arson and murder less than a month later, sentenced to two concurrent terms, 60 years for murder and 50 years for arson. So how pregnant were you, Christine, at the time of this wrongful conviction? And what the hell is it like giving birth behind bars? I was almost six months pregnant. The only thing they don't do to pregnant women is make them wear the value chain and the box because the baby's not a prisoner, but with so many pregnant women in there, you don't always get soft cuffs for your feet.

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So I've got deep scars on the back of my ankles from wearing those metal shackles. And then when I finally went into labor, I didn't really know that I was in labor because I was just having a backache, so they took me to the infirmary and couldn't find a heartbeat.

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I lost it. I started screaming at them. And so I was handcuffed and shackled and taken out into an ambulance. And when I got to the hospital, a doctor came in and explained that I was having contractions. And that's why they couldn't hear the heartbeat. They determined that I was going to have an emergency C-section. So the handcuffs and shackles came on and I got a metal cuff on my ankle and the. I got about thirty six hours with Trent, and then I was transferred back to the facility and my family took him home.

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The Pacers Foundation is a proud supporter of this episode and of the Last Mile organization, which provides business and tech training to help incarcerated individuals successfully and permanently re-enter the workforce. The Pacers Foundation is committed to improving the lives of Hoosiers across Indiana, supporting organizations dedicated primarily to helping young people and students. For more information on the work of the Pacers Foundation or The Last Mile program, visit Pacers Foundation dog for the last mile, dawg. The good news is that there's actually an equal or greater number of heroes in this story than villains Betsy Marg's, Hillary, Bo Rex, Jamie McCallister and the other two actual arson experts, John Berman and John Mellouli, the electrical engineer, Richard Hansen.

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You have Karen Daniel, Jane Reilly, legends in the field on your side, and of course, Ron himself. Ron Safer. I mean, the fucking cavalry came in on this one right at the Center for Wrongful Convictions. Can you talk now about the process that led to 17 years later to Christine coming home? And then we're going to talk about all the wonderful things that she's doing now? Yes, Christine pursued this tirelessly, against all odds, found a wonderful local attorney, Hilary Rix, who believed in Christine but really did not have the resources to take on the awesome power of the state.

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And a supporter of Christie wrote a letter to Northwestern Center on Wrongful Convictions. And Jane Reilly, along with Karen Daniel, took Christine's case and they disassembled every piece of evidence the state put forward. Karen and Jeanne assembled the world's experts on fire science, not the myths of arson investigation, but on fire science to prove first that everything the state said was wrong. And then second, that Christine was innocent, not beyond a reasonable doubt, beyond any doubt.

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So first, they got a former ATF agent and he testified that every one of the myths that was used by the so-called arson investigator, Brian Frank, was wrong. A V pattern does not indicate a point of origin. It indicates a point where something burned against a wall. Fire burns down not because of a liquid accelerant, but because it's seeking oxygen. And there was a hole in the trailer. So the burn patterns that Franks's indicated that there was a liquid accelerant have been disproved.

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Brian Frank said that the fire was hotter because a liquid accelerant was used. That is a myth. Controlled experiments prove that fire is no hotter. Indeed, the heat depends on what is being burned. So chemistry, physics disproved every one of the pieces of evidence. But there was one more critical thing that Karen Daniel did that was pivotal. She subpoenaed the underlying test data that had been used by the ATF lab and all of the documents related to those tests.

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And what that found was stunning. First, she got the actual gas chromatographs. So the actual tests and contrary to his testimony, he did test against the standard of kerosene, not a heavy Distel, but kerosene. Then when you look at those actual test data, you find that, yes, there was kerosene in the living room where the kerosene heater had been years before. But then you look at the sample from Tony's bedroom, the sample that convicted Christine, and the test was negative for any liquid accelerant, kerosene, heavy petroleum distillate, nothing.

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What's more, in that file, there was a draft report that reflected accurately the test results, that is, that there had been kerosene in the living room and that the sample in Tony's bedroom was negative. And then there was a report that in handwriting that crossed that out and made that test result positive. How that happened, unfortunately, we'll never know, because by the time we got to the hearing, the ATF agent who is now deceased was incompetent in an assisted living home and could not testify about what happened.

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But what was clear was Christine was convicted based on not only faulty but false evidence. So that takes care of the state's case. There was one more piece of evidence. And here we have to. It a little bit into the weeds, but I think it's understandable for anybody, Jamie McCallister, who is an expert in examining the victim's chemistry and reverse engineering, how a fire must have started, testified about how this fire started. Tony died before the fire got hot.

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He died of carbon monoxide poisoning. There was no burning in his trachea, no burning in his lungs. And so he had stopped breathing before the fire got hot. His car, Boxey, hemoglobin rate, which is what we refer to as carbon monoxide poisoning. It's when the carbon monoxide bonds with your blood, the hemoglobin was 80 percent, 50 percent is lethal. So how did it get that high? Well, Jamie McAlister testifies that controlled experiment show that if the fire had started out in the open air of the living room or the bedroom, it would have produced a lot of carbon dioxide to oxygen molecules because there's a lot of air floating around and very little carbon monoxide.

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One oxygen molecule. It would have taken 90 minutes for the fire to produce enough carbon monoxide for Tony to have gotten to a Karbasi hemoglobin rate approaching 80 percent. He would have burned to death long before that. And, of course, his lungs and everything else would have burned. That didn't happen. So how did this fire happen? Well, as an electrician testified, there were electrical wires that were overloaded that ran between the roof and the drop down ceiling tiles.

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There was an electrical fire that started that morning. But because there's limited oxygen there, what happens is the fire smolders and it produces a lot of carbon monoxide up in the ceiling. Now, eventually, the fire gets hot enough so that one of the ceiling tiles burned and drops to the floor. That undoubtedly is what Christine awakens to. Now, when that happens, the carbon monoxide fills the Toni's room like a balloon that is letting out. It's a physical tests and chemical tests prove within minutes he dies of carbon monoxide poisoning.

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That's how this fire had to have happened. And thus, not only was there no evidence that Christine was guilty of an arson, there was conclusive evidence that the fire was an accidental fire that took place in the confined area of the ceiling and that Tony died, as everybody knew, of carbon monoxide poisoning. But in spite of all of this, on June 8th of 2010, now for 14 years after your conviction, Judge Westhoff denied a new trial.

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He said, quote, While this bunch had new resources available to her at the post conviction hearing, new experts do not create new evidence. The issues raised and the conclusions reached while packaged differently, remained basically the same as they were at trial in nineteen ninety six. That was the end of the quote. He added that he did not believe the ATF documents would have changed the outcome of the trial. I'm just going to leave that there. I mean, if you don't think it can happen to you, you're wrong.

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It can happen to you. A very large percentage of judges are appointed. And so this is why your vote matters if you weren't planning on voting. Please, I'm begging you vote because your decisions in the voting booth are going to determine who ends up on the bench. So another Indianapolis lawyer joins the team. Meanwhile, John Laramore. And then we get to the Good Stuff, right, in July 13th, 2011. Ron is here with us now, argued in front of a three member panel of the Court of Appeals of Indiana.

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At the argument itself, it was very clear from the questioning of the judges that one judge was dead set against us. It was nothing I was going to be able to say to change his mind. One judge was for us, and no matter how incoherently I babbled, he was going to vote for us. And so the little judge, the chief judge, held Christine's fate in her hand or working theory. And it made sense was that if the court was going to reverse this conviction, they would have done it right away because they know she's sitting in jail.

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So we're sitting there understanding that the longer this goes on, the more likely it is we lost. As time wore on, despair grew and ate from us have been agonizing months, Christine.

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Later on March 21st of 2012 and a two to one decision, the panel reversed the conviction and granted you a new trial, citing the evolution of fire science, as well as the fact that exculpatory evidence was withheld that quote unquote, directly contradicted Cunard's trial testimony. Christine, how did you find out about this decision?

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I got a call to come to the counselor's office and my lawyers were on the phone to tell me that they had reversed my conviction and remanded for a new trial. I started crying and I asked them if they call my son, why wouldn't you know that I won and I was going to come home? And so they assured me that, yes, they were they were calling him and I ended up, I say to the counselor's office for like an hour and a half because I had Back-To-Back calls and she said, you know, she said, we're just going to make this your day so everybody can call and congratulate you and tell you the news and that they were just so happy for me.

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Ron, what about you?

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What's your recollection of that phone call?

[00:33:55]

I, I care beyond measure about Christine in this case and getting her out of jail. And when it ultimately happened, it was as if it was happening to my sister. Just the most moving experience, although the reality comes home of, OK, she's not out of jail. She gets a new trial. She's still sitting in jail. We got to get her out of jail. But then, of course, August 8th, 2012, the Indiana Supreme Court left the appellate courts decision undisturbed.

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So that led to and now in Tuesdays, this is thinking March 21st, 2012, the decision comes down on the basic phone call happens, but it's all the way until September 1st.

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So that's like six months later, almost six months later, two thousand twelve, 17 years, one month and 16 days after.

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You were arrested, Christine, you're released into the arms of your family. What was that like?

[00:35:07]

Well, I mean, when you first walk out, I think all you're looking at is the dream finally happened.

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And I have so many possibilities. After that initial wears off, then you're left with all of these fears and insecurities. It was great walking out and seeing everyone and. But then I'm facing another murder trial, so we have to start preparing for that and I have my son, who I have to provide a home for, and I have to make sure that he has everything he needs.

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He's just 16, so I don't have a driver's license. I don't have any kind of I.D., I don't have renter's history, credit score, all of these things. I don't even know where I'm going to get a job after 17 years.

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So fear starts to take you over. And I think that at first I was just like, I'm not going to make it. There's no way I'm going to be able to make it. And that first night, my son was showing me his laptop, how to set up a Facebook account.

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And while I'm looking at it, I see that he has the appellate court side bookmarked. And I said, why do you have that? And he looked at me and he said, because I checked every day to see if they made a decision and you were coming home. And I started crying and I said, you know, I said, I've been so worried and so unsure.

[00:36:48]

But hearing that you believed in me and we're just waiting for me to go home, I can make it through anything.

[00:37:02]

We would really appreciate your support while we continue to tell these stories of triumph over tragedy, unequal justice and actual innocence each week, and now you can do it with style. And here's what I mean. Your purchase of a wrongful conviction podcast, t shirt, coffee mug, reusable water bottle, or the newest item in our collection, the hot new tote bag. The raw footage and tote bag will sort of casually let everyone to the grocery store know that you're repping the freedom fighters that are out there doing the work to help free the wrongfully convicted of wrongful conviction.

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Podcast Dotcom and click on store and I'll see you out there.

[00:37:44]

That, of course, right before Christmas, the prosecution dropped the charges, but you had a unique struggle to get compensation to fill us in on them. Yes. So like everyone, I filed a civil suit. Clearly, people are rejected. So you have to break through immunity to try to sue. The issue is the ATF chemist is deceased, so I didn't have a leg to stand on and that was ultimately dismissed. Compensation. I have been working since I've been out and I've helped pass new legislation in three different states.

[00:38:20]

Working with the Innocence Project this past year, we passed compensation in Indiana and then when my civil suit was dismissed, I applied for the compensation. It was, I think, very surreal to receive a letter from them saying that just because my conviction was reversed and I wasn't retried did not mean that I was actually innocent. And it really I mean, it hurt my feelings because I testified before these legislators three separate occasions, the senators and representatives. It passes, they'll use my case to pass this compensation bill and then you're going to basically retry me all over again.

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So are they really trying to relitigate this case? No, they are not. But as you go through the process, you fill out a compensation application and then they review it. So for them, they reached out to the prosecutor and the prosecutor said, you know, we didn't have evidence at the time to retry this, but we are going to say we made a mistake. They never want to say they made a mistake. So I had to reach out to everyone.

[00:39:39]

I knew the Center on Wrongful Convictions with The Amazing Law and I writer and Steve Drazen, Ron Safer and all of them wrote letters and submitted the evidence that was used to exonerate me in order to show them that I am innocent and worthy of this compensation. Twenty five years after the fact. They are reviewing the application, they've been reviewing it since November. Yeah. But you've started over and you've also got an organization called Just Is For Just US, and that's just s number for j ust us.

[00:40:23]

What's what is justice for just us just is just like it sounds because the situation just is and for the number and then it's for just us which all of us exonerates justice for. Just as it was started by myself and another exonerated that came from the Center on Wrongful Convictions and one and I just basically wanted to address what it was like when people walk out, you don't have a toothbrush, you don't have the basic necessities.

[00:40:56]

So J for J for short, we're helping with boxes. Somebody reaches out and says, hey, I need an outfit. D We put that together. We've helped take some exonerations to the Innocence Conference, sent out gas cards, cash cards.

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We pay rent, we pay bills.

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And our organization allows health care providers to donate services so they can get a dental visit or some counseling sessions or a physical things that are desperately needed when you return.

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It's such an important thing. You know, I've devoted myself to trying to help as much as I can with people coming out because it is exactly as you described. It's a it's like the second punishment. Many people have no support. There's a number of wonderful organizations doing this work. And I encourage everyone to support justice for just us. And I know you're making a huge difference, so we're proud to support the work. Please scroll down in the episode description and get involved with justice for just US.

[00:42:02]

Donations are what makes this organization work. What are the social media handles and all that stuff for the organization Justice for Just US.

[00:42:13]

And we're on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, so it just is for just us ink on all the social media. Follow it. I'm going to follow you now. So this is the part of the show that I think our audience always looks forward to. I know I do. And this is the part we call closing arguments. First of all, thank our unbelievable guests today. Ron Safer, thank you again for being here. It's my pleasure. And Christine Bunch, what else can I say about you?

[00:42:47]

I don't even have the right words, but I will say that you have all of my respect and I appreciate you so much. And it means the world to me that you were kind to take your time and speak with me today. So closing arguments works like this. I turn off my microphone, I kick back in my chair, I leave my headphones on. Sometimes I close my eyes and we're going to let you each have the final word on whatever you want to talk about.

[00:43:17]

So let's go to Ron first and then, Christine, if you can just take us out.

[00:43:26]

Well, first of all, thanks so much, Jason, for telling this story, for telling the other stories. It is so critically important to raise public awareness of these wrongful convictions. We have the best criminal justice system in the world, but it is run by human beings and human beings are flawed. They make mistakes. They at times act intentionally, maliciously. When that happens, it takes enormous resources to get the system back on track. And so few people are able to afford those resources or given those resources.

[00:44:12]

So what has to happen is everybody involved in the system, prosecutors, judges, jurors have to have an open mind. They have to be persons of good will. We as citizens have to hold them accountable, that their jobs are not to get convictions. They are jobs or to do justice. And we have to insist on that. We have to enter that jury box as citizens giving credence to the presumption of innocence that our Constitution requires. They're not words.

[00:44:58]

They are a critical concept. But if we don't pay attention to it, if we don't honor it, then wonderful people like Christine will have their lives robbed from them, losing decades that nobody can get back to them. And so this is a call to action, we have to be more active, we have to be more responsible, we have to be accountable and make sure that everybody in the system is accountable, Christine.

[00:45:38]

When I go speak to the community and tell them how they can help with J for or how they can help the Innocence Project or how they can step up and make changes within our system, because it is a great system. It is designed to work and we have to take responsibility and make sure it works. So I know that everybody is sitting there saying I don't have money to donate, but everybody does have to step up and say I have something to give here.

[00:46:11]

I can vote. I can educate myself so that when I'm sitting on the jury, I know when I'm listening to because the CSI you watch on TV, that's not always accurate. So really learning about these issues, really raising your voice and saying, you know, we need to change some things.

[00:46:33]

That's how we make the world better. And I encourage all of you to learn about this and figure out if you can help by voting, by sharing our stories, by talking to an exonerated, by just being there.

[00:46:53]

Don't forget to give us a fantastic review wherever you get your podcast. It really helps. And, you know, I'm a proud donor to the Innocence Project and I really hope you'll join me in supporting this very important cause and in so doing, helping to prevent future wrongful convictions. It's easy. Go to Innocence Project, dawg, to learn how to donate and get involved. I want to thank our amazing producers, engineers and editors, Connor Hall and Kevin Amortise.

[00:47:21]

The music in the show is by three time Oscar nominated composer DJ Ralph. Be sure to follow us on Instagram at wrongful conviction and on Facebook at Wrongful Conviction podcast. Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom is a production of Lovaas for good podcasts in association with Signal Company No. One, Northparkes. For NPR ex.