Pittsburgh Man Serving Time for Fatal Arson Deaths Gets Retrial

The man serving life sentences for the deaths of three Pittsburgh firefighters in a fire ruled arson nearly two decades ago has won a new trial, reports WTAE 4.

The decision for defendant Gregory Brown stirred emotions among city firefighters and their families as well as among those who advocated for the man they felt was done an injustice.

City firefighters Thomas Brooks, Patricia Conroy, and Marc Kolenda were trapped in smoke and flames and died in the Valentine’s Day 1995 fire on Bricelyn Street in the Brushton neighborhood.

Brown, now 36 years old, has spent more than half of his life in prison. He was 17 when he was accused of murder and arson by a then-15-year-old delinquent witness, Imbrahim Abdullah, who claimed Brown admitted when they were detention center bunkmates that he did set the deadly fire.

“What happened at Bricelyn street many years ago was a great tragedy. There’s no reason in the world, though, why that tragedy had to be followed with another tragedy. And what happened here was an atrocious abuse of government power,” said Dave Fawcett, one of Brown’s defense attorneys.

In his ruling, Judge Joseph K. Williams granted a new trial because prosecutors did not reveal that Abdullah was getting thousands of dollars from a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives reward fund in return for his story.

Evidence of that payment was uncovered by Point Park University students’ Freedom of Information requests via the Innocence Institute.

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