Battle Creek Enquirer

Andrew Babick wins new trial in '95 arson-murder
Trace Christenson, 11:20 p.m. EST November 7, 2014

Andrew Babick
Andrew Babick

A judge today granted a new trial to a Battle Creek man convicted in the 1995 arson of a home and the death of two young children.

Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge James Kingsley said in a written opinion issued Friday that a new trial for Andrew Babick, 48, probably would result in a different verdict.

Babick was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the Sept. 9, 1995 fire at 294 Grove St. that killed brothers, Le'Daryus Fields, 3, and Le'Tonio Briggs, 2.

But the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School argued that prosecutors presented faulty evidence at trial that the fire was arson.

Attorneys argued that the fire could have started from a cigarette dropped in a couch on a porch of the house and was not necessarily caused by someone pouring accelerants inside the house.
Babick told investigators he went to the house to complain about crack cocaine he purchased earlier. While he waited for the man who sold it, Babick said he fell asleep on the couch and may have dropped a cigarette before eventually leaving.

But experts at the trial said the fire was arson and not an accident caused by a cigarette.

But at a hearing before Kingsley this year, experts testified that a fire could have started in the couch and then flashed over and penetrated the house through a window, causing the fire which destroyed the structure.

Lawyers argued at the hearing that scientific evidence disputing some of the finding of arson has changed but was not available for the trial attorney, Alma Masson-Thurmer. She told Kingsley she had to concede the conclusion of arson presented by prosecutors from the Michigan Attorney General.

"She stated that the fire science in use by experts at the time caused everyone to believe the fire was an arson as opposed to being accidentally set," Kingsley wrote in his 12-page opinion. "... she had to focus on who committed the arson, rather than on whether it was an intentionally caused fire."

Kingsley found the evidence was new and that the defense tried unsuccessfully to find evidence to contradict the prosecutor. Both were needed for the judge to rule for a new trial.

"The test is whether the newly discovered evidence would render a different result probable on a retrial," Kingsley wrote. " ... a different result on retrial is probable."

Kingsley said prosecutors from the Michigan Attorney General have 90 days, or 90 days after an appeals, to determine whether to retry Babick or the case will be dismissed and he will be released from prison.

Call Trace Christenson at 966-0685. Follow him on Twitter: @TSChristenson.

Arson
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