Michael Politte

  • County of Conviction: Washington County, MO
  • Convicted of: Manslaughter and two counts first degree assault
  • Sentence: Life + 15 years
  • Years Served: 19 years in prison, 1 year and counting on parole

Michael Politte was only 14 years old when he discovered the body of his mother, Rita, on fire in the family home.


And instead of having even a moment to grieve the unimaginable loss, Michael was interrogated hours later, and eventually falsely convicted of his own mother’s death. 


He has spent the rest of his life wrongfully in prison. As of 2021, he is 37 years old. 


Flawed fire science was primarily used to convict the teenager: at trial, a fire marshal testified that the fire pattern and burn damage on and around Rita’s body indicated that a liquid accelerant had been used. Another analyst testified that Michael’s shoes tested positive for gasoline. Prosecutors then used the fact that Michael and his friends used to play with homemade firecrackers to imply that he would have used fire to kill his mother (despite no clear motive). 


Not only has MIP uncovered new evidence regarding the fire “science” used to convict Michael, but we also know that other alternative suspects were never investigated by police back in 1998. Rita’s true killer still remains free.


Hallmarks of wrongful conviction present in this case: 


  • Flawed forensic evidence
  • Prosecutorial misconduct 


Further reading on Michael’s case: 


  • Read the Press Release for Michael Politte from MacArthur Justice Center, Langdon & Emison, and MIP
  • Watch MTV’s “Unlocking the Truth,” which featured Michael’s case (starting at 22:30)
  • Michael’s Petition for Writ of Habeas
  • More about new developments in arson science


What can you do to help?