The Pioneer Hotel burns in downtown Tucson, December 1970.

The Pioneer Hotel burned in downtown Tucson, December 1970.

[Note: A previous version of this story indicated that the Pima County Attorney’s Office is housed in the structure that formerly was the site of the Pioneer Hotel. We were misinformed; the PCAO is across the steet from that site. We apologize for the error.] 

Last evening, the TV news magazine 60 Minutes screened a compelling news story about the Hotel Pioneer fire case, from 1970.

The Tucson fire killed 28 guests, and 16-year-old Louis Taylor was arrested before the fire was extinguished. The black teenager was convicted by an all-white jury.

The news program (screen shots below) was peppered with commentary by Taylor’s Arizona lawyer, Ed Novak, a Polsinelli partner (and former President of the State Bar of Arizona). As the story says, Novak “is now leading Louis Taylor’s defense team, which is made up of volunteer lawyers, students and law professors from the Arizona Justice Project.” That team has sought a new trial for Taylor.

Novak and the team reviewed all the evidence, and conducted depositions of individuals such as the original fire investigator, Cy Holmes. That work was followed by recent findings that the cause of the fire was undetermined; that meant arson was just one of a number of possibilities.

“The last time I checked,” Novak said, “we don’t convict people on a ‘possibility.’”

In the story, Steve Kroft reported that 60 Minutes had sought an interview with Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall, to no avail. So Steve approached her on a Tucson street. That interview is captured in the broadcast.

But, as the story indicated, a new trial will likely never occur. Taylor has accepted a deal that gave him release from prison—where he has spent two-thirds of his life—but through which he must declare no contest to the charges.

You should read the script, and view the story, here.

Later this week, Taylor’s lawyers will have a press conference on the case’s outcome. I’ll report their statements.

Here are some screen shots from the 60 Minutes program:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

News last week that Mike Wallace had died signaled the passing of a great veteran journalist. He is best known for his success on the TV magazine show 60 Minutes (more on that in a minute).

Mike Wallace

Here in Arizona, Wallace has covered more than one story. But imagine being the person whose work brought Wallace and his team to the Grand Canyon State. Imagine making an impact so great that Wallace would trek west to tell your story to his tens of millions of viewers.

No, if you were wondering. It wasn’t me.

But it was an Arizona lawyer. In 1983, trial lawyer Richard Grand just did his job when he won a liability judgment for his client, a South Tucson police officer. Unfortunately for the small town, the $3 million judgment was about the same size as the town’s budget, according to the Town Manager. So, in an act that has grown more common in 2012 but was a first in the United States at the time, South Tucson filed for bankruptcy protection.

Bankruptcy? For a city? That was unheard of, and exactly what brought 60 Minutes calling to Richard Grand’s office.

Richard is pleased to report that the city eventually paid in full. And out of the case, he also got to be interviewed by the consummate questioner Wallace.

Here is a photo (actually, a photo of the photo) of the encounter in Grand’s office. That photo is quite a keepsake.

Mike Wallace, left, and lawyer Richard Grand

Click here to read a story I wrote about Richard Grand.

And here is some of what CBS had to say about Mike Wallace:

“Wallace played a huge role in 60 Minutes’ rise to the top of the ratings to become the number-one program of all time, with an unprecedented 23 seasons on the Nielsen annual top 10 list—five as the number-one program.

“Besides his 21 Emmy Awards, Wallace was the recipient of five DuPont-Columbia journalism and five Peabody Awards, and was the Paul White Award winner in 1991, the highest honor given by the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award grand prize and television first prize in 1996. In June of 1991, he was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.”

You can read the front-page obituary that the New York Times ran about Wallace here.

Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery

Over the past week, the State Bar of Arizona website has undergone another in a series of transformations. A few months ago, the “public” portion of the site was completely revamped. But more recently, the “lawyer” side got the same treatment.

We are still developing some needed changes on the Arizona Attorney Magazine portion of the site, but one thing I was pleased to finally land was a true magazine news page, separate and apart from the print magazine’s web page. The Arizona Attorney Magazine News Center is now live, and you can see it here.

We have spotted a few bugs that need to be worked out. But it has been (and will continue to be) my great and maddening daily privilege to populate the page with new content—news links, video links, and blog content.

Andy Rooney

Yesterday was Memorial Day, so you may have missed something I posted there. And so I am sharing it here today.

If you are like me and most everyone I know, you have mixed feelings about Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes’ fame, because he can annoy as often as he can illuminate. But yesterday I posted his previous musings on the true meaning of Memorial Day. I think it was quite well done.

I know, Memorial Day is over. But I think watching this will be two minutes and 37 seconds well spent.