Featured Case: Michael Politte

Michael and Rita Politte
Michael and his mom

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Michael Politte was only fourteen years old when he was accused of murdering his mother, Rita Politte. Michael and a friend were asleep in his home on December 5, 1998, when the two boys woke up and discovered that smoke was filling the trailer. Michael and his friend ran out of the room and discovered his mother’s body on fire in the doorway to her bedroom. After the fire was extinguished, police arrived, and suspicion for the crime swiftly shifted to Michael. Interrogated just hours later, Michael never had a moment to grieve his mother, as he’s been fighting for his freedom ever since.

In 2002, Michael was falsely convicted of the crime largely based on unreliable fire-identification methods. At trial, the fire marshal testified, based on a visual examination, that the fire pattern and burn damage on and around the victim indicated that a liquid accelerant had been used. Additionally, an analyst testified that Michael’s shoes tested positive for gasoline, thereby tying the accelerant allegedly found on Michael’s shoes to the accelerant they believed had been used at the crime scene. Michael and his friends had previously been known to fill up their free-time in their small, rural town playing with homemade firecrackers, which the prosecution twisted to imply that Michael would have chosen fire as a means to kill his mother, despite any clear motive.

Michael is innocent. There is no physical evidence connecting him to the crime scene, and MIP has uncovered new evidence regarding the fire science used to convict him. This evidence not only supports Michael’s innocence, but further indicates that Rita’s killer is still free. Although several alternative suspects were at play during the initial investigation of the case, with much greater motive than the victim’s own 14-year old son, none were fully investigated by police. Michael’s release would be the first step to giving Michael, his sisters, and the rest of his family long-awaited closure.

Michael Politte is currently represented by MIP and the law firm of Langdon and Emison. Read more about the new developments in arson science here. Support the work of MIP in freeing innocent individuals like Michael Politte by donating here.

You can discover additional details about Michael’s case by watching “Unlocking the Truth”, airing on Wednesdays at 10 pm CST on MTV. Watch the trailer: