KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Missouri man who has insisted for more than 20 years that he was wrongly convicted as a teenager of killing his mother has been granted parole.
Attorneys for 37-year-old Michael Politte confirmed Tuesday that he had been given parole, the Kansas City Star reported. He is set to be released April 23 from the Jefferson City Correctional Center.
Politte was 14 years old in 1998 when, according to his lawyers, he found the burning body of his mother, Rita Politte, on the floor of their home in the eastern Missouri town of Hopewell as he and a friend, who said they awoke to smoke, scrambled to escape.
Investigators said the fire was started with gasoline and determined that Rita Politte had also suffered blunt force head trauma. The investigation focused on her teenage son as the main suspect and four years later, he was convicted as an adult of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
The Midwest Innocence Project and the MacArthur Justice Center, which both work to overturn wrongful convictions, have sought to exonerate Politte, saying he was convicted based on debunked science and a biased investigation.
A petition by Politte's attorneys last year seeking his release from prison faulted investigators who determined that the teen had gasoline on his shoes, which was the only physical evidence they said linked him to the crime. The findings were based on now-discredited fire investigation techniques, and the state has conceded that Politte did not have gas on his shoes, the attorneys said.
The petition said investigators ignored other potential suspects, including Politte’s father, who was going through a difficult divorce with Rita Politte at the time of her killing.
Michael Politte's attorneys said Tuesday that his parole will not curtail their efforts to get him exonerated.
"We will continue to litigate in court to overturn his conviction,” his lawyers said in a statement. “His release on parole means he can now continue this fight from home with his sisters.”