According to a detective that worked the case, Martin Pang - convicted of the infamous 1995 arson that took the lives of four Seattle firefighters - is adding insult to injury. Pang, through his attorney Jeffrey Ellis, is again claiming his innocence, and requesting access to documents from the King County Prosecutor's Office that he says show he was in L.A. at the time the fire was set at his family's International District warehouse.
Prosecutors and many involved with the case contend these new claims of innocence from Pang are farfetched and insulting to the families that lost loved ones in the fire.
Pang pleaded guilty in 1998 to the fire, which authorities allege was set to collect insurance money. Investigators have contended from early on that Pang flew up to Seattle from L.A. on the day the fire was set, and Pang's original confession admitted as much. However, the convicted arsonists new legal maneuvering is designed to cast doubt on those contentions and argues Pang's confession was coerced.
Jeffrey Ellis, who is now representing Pang, said in a recent King County Superior Court filing that he is seeking "to review the entire prosecutor's file." But, Ellis claims, documents are being withheld.
For Ellis, the biggest issue in question is his client's whereabouts when the fire was set. While prosecutors have always contended that Pang flew up from Los Angeles the day of the fire, Ellis wrote that during his review of some filings he "found several sworn statements, previously filed under seal, which unequivocally stated that Mr. Pang was in Los Angeles when the warehouse fire was set."
Ellis, in his court filing, alleges that Pang was "coerced" into confessing his guilt. Pang's previous legal team, led by John Henry Browne, also argued that Pang's confession was coerced, However, Pang stated in court that his confession was true and later pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter.
While Ellis says the documents in question are being withheld, Ian Goodhew, the deputy chief of staff at the King County Prosecutor's Office, has said Ellis' arguments are "meritless" and that the documents being requested are what the Times describes as "prosecutors' private work product." Goodhew says the Prosecutor's Office is not required to release the files.
Meanwhile, retired Seattle Police Detective Stephen O'Leary, who worked the Pang case, isn't happy.
Now, nearly 18 years after four families lost fathers, brothers and husbands, O'Leary says the case should be put to rest.
"These families suffered immeasurably. You have no idea how much there is an impact when you lose a loved one. You could call it manslaughter. I call it a homicide. These guys were murdered."