New Court documents reveal county attorney was pressured not to exonerate Louis Taylor

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 10:02 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - New court papers in the Louis Taylor case say Pima County Attorney Laura Conover was pressured with the threat of disbarment if she exonerated Taylor, who was charged with setting the fire which killed 29 people in the Pioneer Hotel in 1970.

Taylor was freed from prison after 42 years after new evidence suggested an electrical malfunction and not arson caused the fire.

Taylor pleaded no contest in a plea agreement by the former county attorney who refused to exonerate him.

In the court filings made by Taylor’s attorneys, those threats allegedly came from some attorneys in Phoenix, but there’s no mention of who the lawyers are nor why they would threaten Conover over the Taylor case.

Two weeks ago, 13 News reported that Conover had written a press release last May saying she was prepared to exonerate Taylor of setting the fire due to new evidence showing the fire was not likely arson-caused, casting reasonable doubt on Taylor’s guilt.

Taylor was 16 years old at the time of the fire and helped save lives that night, according to Conover, but a Phoenix jury convicted him before being released after pleading no contest ten years ago.

However, Taylor has always maintained his innocence. He sued both the city and county for damages but is yet to collect and there is a federal case against the city and county, which is still pending.

According to a statement Conover gave to 13 News, she prepared a press release on May 28, 2022calling his conviction tragic and an injustice, applauding his exoneration, but the press release was never made public.

The press release was edited by former Tucson city council member Nina Trasoff, who is a friend of Conover. It was Trasoff, in a sworn affidavit, who said that Conover had been threatened, although the county attorney’s office had neither confirmed nor denied that.

On August 3, 2022, a subsequent statement was released that said she found no new evidence to exonerate him and did not.

Trasoff is out of town and is unavailable for comment.

Conover released this statement to 13 News:

“High-level prosecutorial decisions made by county attorneys and district attorneys across the nation often draw strong and sometimes fierce opinions. In performing my duties as prosecutor, I’ve proven my willingness and availability to listen to diverse feedback. However, I’ve also proven that I make decisions based on facts and the law. While I carefully consider the opinions of my senior leadership team and the opinions of interested members of the community, the ultimate decisions I make are my own.”

Taylor’s attorneys are asking for Conover to sit for a deposition where she will be questioned under oath.

There’s been no indication that will happen any time soon.