Attorney Imran Syed Helps Save Innocent Man

Press Release

Photo 1 — Courtesy of U-M Law SchoolImran Syed is a 26 year old assertive and articulate lawyer from Canton MI. He was part of a team of lawyers and students from the University of Michigan Law School who worked to free a man who had been wrongfully imprisoned for more than 26 years.

Imran works as a Staff Attorney and Teaching Fellow at the Michigan Innocence Clinic, University of Michigan Law School. Besides investigating and litigating at Innocence Clinic, Imran has written a law review article on wrongful convictions based on scientific evidence that is later repudiated. This will be published in this fall by the Stanford journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

Imran truly believes and practices the Islamic principle of Siratul Mustaqeem-the shortest distance between the initiation and culmination of a journey. He accomplished this commendable eminence within fourteen months after graduating from University of Michigan’s Law School in April 20011 and within six months of acquiring his law license in December of 2011. Imran is one of very few law graduates who initiate their career with public service and take pride in serving the deprive and marginalized of our community. May Allah grant him success in his endeavors.

Imran’s father is  Javed Syed, a senior social worker at Detroit Receiving Hospital and mother is Dr. Arifa Javed Syed a sociology professor at Wayne State University. Imran has a sister Nida Syed, who is a medical student.

Details of the Case

David Gavitt was convicted of murder in 1986, after a fire destroyed his house in Ionia, Michigan, killing his wife and two young daughters. Police and prosecutors argued that the fire was arson because there were physical signs in the burned house that indicated arson. Mr. Gavitt maintained his innocence, but was convicted entirely on the basis of these circumstantial markers of arson.

In 2010, students at the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School began evaluating Mr. Gavitt’s case. By that time, it was common knowledge in the legal profession that many of the physical markers that were previously thought to be indicators of intentionally set fires were, in fact, just as likely to occur in accidental fires. Scientific and legal experts across the country have come to agree over the past several years that many innocent people were wrongfully convicted of arson in the 1980s and early 1990s. But now, scientific advances can be used to exonerate them.

The Michigan Innocence Clinic worked for two years to investigate Mr. Gavitt’s case. It consulted world-renowned arson scientist John Lentini, and learned that Mr. Gavitt’s case was a classic example of an innocent man being convicted of arson based on outdated methods of investigation. Mr. Lentini and other leading experts provided affidavits attesting that the fire at the Gavitt house was improperly classified as arson, and that in fact there was no evidence of arson.

After lawyers from the Michigan Innocence Clinic accepted Mr. Gavitt’s case and made a filing in court to ask for his release from prison, even the prosecutor agreed that Mr. Gavitt had been wrongfully convicted and should be released from prison. So, after 27 years of imprisonment, David Gavitt was finally released from prison on June 6, 2012.

After thanking the team of lawyers who worked for more than two years to win his release, Mr. Gavitt immediately went to the cemetery where his family is buried, and visited their graves for the first time.


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