Experts Question Dozens of Arson Convictions

In Dougherty's case, Lentini and Pisani say the fire damage that Quinn identified as separate points of origin was caused by flashover. They say that the origin of the fire cannot be determined, but that there is no reason to conclude that it was an arson.

Quinn concluded that the fire started in three places nearly at the same time.

Nevertheless, Dougherty was not arrested until 14 years after the fatal fire, when his second ex-wife, who was involved in a bitter custody dispute with him, told police that he had confessed to starting the fire. Dougherty's lawyers and family say the ex-wife, who has since died, later admitted that she made up his confession.

Two jailhouse informants also testified that Dougherty had admitted that he intentionally started the fire to get back at his girlfriend, who had threatened to leave him, and at his first ex-wife, who he said was cheating on him and using drugs.

On the night of the fire, Dougherty, who had a drinking problem, was supposed to be at Alcoholics Anonymous. Instead, his girlfriend found him at a bar and told him she was leaving him. She left Dougherty's two boys at home with a babysitter. When it got late, the babysitter left, according to court documents.

Eight Years on Death Row in Arson Case

Dougherty's first ex-wife, the mother of Danny and John, called him a "nasty drunk" and said he beat her up, but that he never touched his kids.

"It was a freak accident in my eyes," Kathy Dipple said of the fire. "We had our ups and downs but he never hurt his kids."

Dougherty said he got home late that night and went to sleep on the downstairs couch. He said he awoke a few minutes later and saw the curtains on fire. He claimed he ran out of the house, tried to put out the flames with a hose and tried several times to run back into the house.

A police officer said that Dougherty said, "My name is mud, I should die for what I did," though Dougherty, in an interview, denied it.

In court papers, prosecutors argue that Quinn's investigation was scientifically up to date in 1985. They also argue that Lentini and Pisani conclude that the cause of the fire was undetermined, not that the fire could not have been arson, and that their testimony would not have changed the outcome of the trial.

"While the science of fire investigation may have evolved since 1985 and created new terminology by 2000 -- 15 years after Lt. Quinn's investigation of the fire at 929 ½ Carver St. -- the behavior of fire has not changed one iota since its discovery," they wrote.

"The fact that defendant's hired experts assign a new 'scientific' name to the phenomenon of fire behavior does not mean that Lt. Quinn's failure to use that name in any way minimizes the import of his accurate observations and descriptions of the fire defendant set," prosecutors wrote.

Dougherty, who has been on death row for eight years, has reconnected with his son from his second wife, who has since died. His son did not return a message from ABC News.

"I was railroaded and here I am on death row while my son is out there parentless," Dougherty said. "Everything that I had is gone."

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