A former Naperville man who spent 22 years in prison for the 1995 death of his mother-in-law was found not guilty in a retrial Wednesday.
Following a seven-day bench trial, DuPage County Judge Liam C. Brennan found 61-year-old William Amor not guilty of murder and aggravated arson in connection with the death of Marianne Miceli, according to a statement from the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“This is the end of a nightmare for me,” Amor said in a statement released by the Illinois Innocence Project, which represented him.
“I have fought to clear my name for the last 22 years and I am so grateful that I was able to have my day in court for the truth to be heard,” Amor said. “I am looking forward to starting the next phase of my life as a free man, no longer labeled as a murderer, for the first time in a long time.”
On the evening of Sept. 10, 1995, Amor and his wife left their Naperville apartment to go to a drive-in movie, according to the Innocence Project. They shared the apartment with Amor’s mother-in-law, Marianne Miceli, and when they returned, they found that a fire had broken out and Miceli had died from smoke inhalation.
On Sept. 17, 1997, Amor was convicted of murder and aggravated arson for the fire that caused Miceli’s death, according to the statement. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Brennan vacated Amor’s conviction in April 2017 after his attorneys claimed he was convicted based upon a confession which was proven false and arson findings that are no longer scientifically reliable, the Innocence Project said. His confession was the basis for fire investigators to change their mind in 1995 to change their initial finding of an “undetermined” cause of the fire to arson.
Amor was released from custody in May 2017 and has remained free on bond during his retrial, according to the Innocence Project.
“While my office stands by our prosecution and we believe the evidence supported a finding of guilty, we certainly respect the Court’s decision,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement.
“This was a very complicated case originally based on fire science available at the time,” Berlin said. “Since that time, more than twenty years later, fire science has improved dramatically and consequently the evidence presented at this trial has changed from that presented in 1995.”