Judge Vacates Naperville Man’s 1997 Murder Conviction

CHICAGO (CBS) — A DuPage County judge vacated Thursday the arson-murder conviction of a Naperville man who has spent the past 22 years in prison. Now, prosecutors must decide whether to retry him.

William Amor, 60, remains held at the Taylorville Correctional Center until a hearing on April 13 that will determine whether Amor will be released, retired or his case appealed by the prosecution, according to a statement from the Illinois Innocence Project.

 Judge Vacates Naperville Man’s 1997 Murder Conviction

William Amor (Credit: Illinois Department of Corrections)

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 statement. 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.

The attorneys representing William Amor said it is likely that no one set the fire that killed Amor’s mother-in-law, Marianne Miceli, as Amor and his wife were at a drive-in movie. A confession exists, and is the only evidence implicating Amor, but Illinois Innocence Project legal director Lauren Kaeseberg said it is clearly false. WBBM’s Bob Roberts reports.

“Our belief, after looking at this evidence for years, and analyzing every factor, is that this was an accidental fire,” Kaeseberg said.

The confession states that Amor set fire using vodka-soaked newspapers and a lit cigarette. Kaeseberg said experts today say that is impossible. Amor had been jailed for two weeks, had been questioned by detectives for 15 hours and had just been served with divorce papers when he signed the confession, which he has denied ever since.

Amor has served 22 years of a 45 year sentence. Kaeseberg said she believes that this is the first case in which reinterpretation of fire evidence has led to such a court order in Illinois.

A hearing is set at 9:30 a.m. next Thursday, April 13 at the DuPage County courthouse, at which time prosecutors will say whether they will seek to retry him or drop the charges.

(CBS Chicago and Sun-Times Media Wire attributed to this copy. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Watch & Listen LIVE