Law Students Help PA Innocence Project Exonerate Local Man

After losing almost 14 years for a crime he did not commit, a Pittsburgh-area man is free, thanks to the hard work and diligence of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and 15 Duquesne University law students.

Elizabeth DeLosa - Pennsylvania Innocence Project
Elizabeth DeLosa, managing attorney of the Pittsburgh office of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

Daniel Carnevale, who was released March 18 from the Allegheny County Jail, spent the majority of his incarceration at Albion State Correctional Institution in Erie County, Pa. In 2007, he was convicted and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for a Bloomfield apartment building fire that killed three people in 1993. He has always maintained his innocence.

Carnevale’s release marks the 18th exoneration by the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which is housed at Duquesne University.

“Thanks to the generosity of so many individuals and the sheer force of will of Mr. Carnevale himself, he is home with his family and beginning the process of re-building,” said attorney Elizabeth DeLosa, a 2010 law alumna who manages the Project’s Pittsburgh office and represents Carnevale.

“This case is somewhat unique, I think, in that it was actually worked on by two of Duquesne law school’s clinical programs—the Federal Litigation Clinic and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project,” DeLosa added.

Carnevale wrote to the Pennsylvania Innocence Project for help in 2009, but his case hadn’t yet reached complete review when attorney Adrian Roe was appointed in 2015 to represent Carnevale before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 2016, Roe, a supervising attorney for Duquesne’s Federal Litigation Clinic, told DeLosa that Carnevale was denied relief. At that time, the Project sought assistance in the case from Douglas Carpenter, a nationally recognized expert in fire science and arson investigations.

“We asked if he’d be willing to review the facts of Mr. Carnevale’s case,” DeLosa said. “Mr. Carpenter spent countless hours—all pro bono—conducting an in-depth review of the 1993 cause and origin investigation, ultimately concluding … that this fire was most likely accidental and not the result of arson. In other words, no crime occurred here.”

Lawyers and paralegals from Duane Morris, PNC and Potomac Law Group partnered with the Project, giving countless pro-bono hours, to draft a post-conviction relief act petition and eventually litigate on behalf of Carnevale.

“Our partnership with Duquesne School of Law is the life blood of our organization,” DeLosa said. “We simply could not do this work without Duquesne’s help.”

The following Duquesne law students—some current and some now graduated—each assisted with Carnevale’s case “whenever asked, without hesitation or question,” according to DeLosa: Susannah Glick, Kelsey Ayers, Jennifer Vogel, Kristi Heidel, Alanna Haefner, Andrew Urko, Amy McCrossen, Benjamin Kahn, Ohara Hamlin, Kylie Johnson, Annette Dohanics, Krista DiPaolo, Tristan Luengen, Ryan Sweeney and William Tyler Fagan.