In the United States, the issue of wrongful incarceration creates a variety of challenges that must be addressed. According to the statistics, 4% to 6% of persons who are currently incarcerated are truly innocent, and a substantial majority of these individuals belong to marginalized groups of society. Innocent people are regularly convicted of crimes for which they were not responsible due to ineffective police work, violent interrogations, or a lack of technology that allows for appropriate examination of the evidence. In most cases, DNA evidence is what is used to demonstrate someone’s innocence; nevertheless, the popular television show “MythBusters” was recently responsible for helping to overturn the conviction of one individual.
After 35 years in prison, John Galvan was able to prove his innocence by using evidence from a MythBusters episode. The episode proved a cigarette couldn’t ignite a Molotov Cocktail, which was a key factor in his case. pic.twitter.com/deXVTGQexo— IGN (@IGN) October 12, 2022
In the year 1986, John Galvan was tried for and found guilty of causing a fire that resulted in the deaths of two brothers named Guadalupe Martinez and Julio Martinez. According to My Modern Met, Galvan, who had been serving a life sentence for a crime he did not commit for approximately 21 years, watched a program on the prison television in 2007 that he assumed would help him justify his innocence. He saw an episode of “MythBusters” on the Discovery Channel titled “Hollywood Trial.”
The hosts, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, attempted to scientifically reproduce movie scenes in an effort to refute Hollywood clichés. Galvan was immediately intrigued when he saw them trying to light a pool of gasoline with a cigarette. After their utter failure, the two came to the unsettling conclusion that this well-known action movie scene isn’t actually possible. Galvan contacted his attorney right away with a plan that would eventually result in his release.
John Galvan was two decades into a life sentence when he caught an episode of @Discovery‘s @MythBusters that renewed his hope. https://t.co/8WD4VVnTs1— The Innocence Project (@innocence) October 7, 2022
Southwest Chicago’s two-flat residence caught fire in September 1986. The brothers perished in the fire, while their siblings Blanca and Jorge survived. They reported a woman’s threat to set their home on fire to the police. When the woman was questioned, all she did was point a finger in Galvan’s direction.
Jose Ramirez and Rene Rodriguez, two neighbors who were also questioned by police, claimed that Mr. Galvan, his brother, and Mr. Galvin’s neighbor Arthur Almendarez were all reportedly engaged in starting the fire. Even though Mr. Galvan had been staying at his grandma’s house the night of the fire and there was no other evidence connecting him to the fire, police ultimately detained both Mr. Galvan and his brother in addition to Mr. Almendarez and his brother.
In ’86, John Galvan wrongly got a life sentence for throwing a cigarette into gasoline, igniting a building, killing 2.— Sheel Mohnot (@pitdesi) October 9, 2022
In ’07, he saw Mythbusters busting the Hollywood myth that a lit cigarette lights gas on fire & was finally exonerated 3 months ago!https://t.co/k0HQUbuSpu
According to The Innocence Project, Detective Victor Switski, who was in charge of the interrogation, handcuffed Mr. Galvan to a wall before intimidating and questioning him for hours, pressuring the 18-year-old to blame others for the murder so that he could go home. He also threatened Galvan with the death penalty if he refused to confess. All three of the young lads subsequently wrote confessions confessing responsibility after being subdued by the cops.
They stated that the men had sparked the fire by tossing Molotov cocktails that Galvan had lit it with a cigarette through the window. Galvan, who is currently 39 years old, understood that the MythBusters episode proving that was incorrect from a scientific perspective may have supported his statement. Fortunately, Tara Thompson, a participant in the Innocence Project, had also watched the same program, and the two of them began investigating the science of arson.
The Discovery Channel’s ‘MythBusters’ Helped John Galvan who a Wrongly Convicted of 35 Years Behind Barshttps://t.co/pDcWpnuROh#JohnGalvan #wrongfullyConviction #theDiscoveryChanne #MythBusters #TaraThompson #ExonerationProject #theUniversityOfChicago #LawSchool #PepUnlimited— PepUnlimitedLLC (@PepUnlimited) October 12, 2022
Galvan regretfully had to wait an additional ten years before getting a chance to present his post-conviction arguments. Only in 2017 could Thompson, however, finally present their findings to the court. Seven witnesses were also presented by them, one of whom alleged that the policeman who had asked Galvan had also tortured him. An arson expert also testified, claiming that Galvan’s confession was improbable and that the other witnesses had also been subjected to torture. In spite of this, the prosecutors disputed the accuracy of the science.
Thompson stated, “I find that very telling about the state of science and the law…that these things that we probably should accept as true in the legal space, the system does not always want to accept.”
Despite filing many petitions, he had to wait until 2022 before being released. At the same time, the convictions of the other two individuals, who had also been wrongfully found guilty of the crime, were also reversed. After spending a combined 105 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit, all three men are now at last free.
Galvan has served 35 years in prison for a crime he was not even connected to. He is currently attempting to integrate into society and build a house for himself.