Man's conviction vacated after serving 4 years on arson conviction
By Chris Lamphere
July 3, 2013
CADILLAC — After serving four years in prison, Victor Caminata, 39, had only one thing in mind when he was released Tuesday — to see his children.
"Nothing can make up for that lost time," Caminata said. "All I can do is look to the future."
Caminata was convicted of arson of a dwelling house in 2009 and was sentenced to nine to 40 years in prison. The arson charge was the result of a March 2008 incident in the Boon area of Wexford County, Michigan, when the home Caminata shared with his then-girlfriend was destroyed in fire.
At the time, fire investigators determined the cause of the fire to be a chimney. Shortly afterward, however, further investigation revealed char marks in the basement that multiple experts said appeared to be purposely inflicted.
Caminata's fate was sealed when his former girlfriend testified against him, saying they were going to break up, providing a possible motive for Caminata to burn down the house.
That was four years ago.
On Tuesday, an evidentiary hearing was held at the 28th Circuit Court in Cadillac. Caminata was represented by Dave Moran, director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, along with a team of attorneys who devoted many hours toward efforts to exonerate Caminata based on what they saw as "overwhelming evidence" of innocence.
Before their case was heard by Judge William Fagerman, the defense was informed that the Michigan Attorney General's office was in possession of "newly discovered evidence" that reclassified the cause of the fire as undetermined.
Following about three hours of closed-door discussions, AG Attorney Lauryl Scott addressed Judge Fagerman, saying based on the new evidence, along with revised opinions of all the experts originally involved in Caminata's 2009 sentence, he had a "reasonable likelihood of acquittal."
Judge Fagerman said he was satisfied with the evidence presented to him and ruled to vacate Caminata's previous conviction and release him on personal recognizance under the condition he return in 30 days, when the AG will announce if it plans to pursue a retrial.
The content of the new evidence discovered by the AG was not made available during the hearing and Moran declined to comment on it until Caminata's case was dismissed or the AG decides to pursue a retrial.
Caminata was able to leave from the courthouse with his family. He plans to spend the Fourth of July watching fireworks with his three kids, Brooke, 15, Molly, 12, and Dominic, 9. He will be staying with his sister in LeRoy until he can find his own place.