Mark Kirk Q&A

In a nutshell, what happened?
Mark Kirk was convicted of starting a fire which killed three people. The police allege Kirk had an argument with his girlfriend and started the fire in order to kill her. A fire did begin in the apartment, but Kirk, his girlfriend, and her two sons escaped, Three people in the apartment above perished in the blaze.

Why do you think this is a wrongful conviction?
The prosecution alleges that Mark caused the fire by pouring Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum onto the coil of an electric stove. Starting a fire in such a way is physically impossible-- Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum is a blended alcohol: it will not ignite. Beverages like tequila or Bacardi 151 will burn because they are pure and unblended. Captain Morgan is made from spices and mixed with water. It is non-ignitable and non-flammable.

What makes you so sure?
Dr. Stanley Broskey, a forensic chemist with 19 years experience in the New Jersey State Police Crime Lab performed an experiment and showed his findings to the court. And recently, (in June 2006), renown arson investigator and forensic analyst John Lentini performed three experiments in order to refute the prosecution's theory (see the experiments at In all three cases, the rum failed to ignite.

How did the fire start?
The apartment complex has a long history of fires, mostly as a result of negligent maintenance. In fact, two weeks before this tragedy, a grease fire occurred on the same stove in Kirk's apartment. This is most probably the cause of the blaze. Kirk had requested maintenance, and stopped using the stove burner which caught fire. It is terribly ironic that the apartment complex maintenance man, Steve Rivera, and two of his children who lived in the apartment above, were the ones who perished in the disaster.

How did the prosecution support their claim?
They submitted a video showing Captain Morgan Rum being poured onto an electric burner, and flames erupting into a huge fireball. This is, of course, physically impossible.

Are you saying that the police and prosecution committed fraud??

Yes, without a doubt. Most probably they replaced the rum with lighter fluid, kerosene, or some other flammable substance. This is a side of police work which is not shown on television: junk science being twisted and manipulated to gain convictions, and save to face for the forces of authority. And in addition, they were able to coerce 16 year old witness Jason Hamby into testifying that Kirk threatened him, "I'll kill you and your family, or hurt you.(
read )" Jason made no such statement to police during the initial detailed investigation. It is believed that police threatened Jason's mother (Kirk's girlfriend), and Jason changed his testimony to protect her.

This is terrible, I can hardly believe it?
It is shocking. And this kind of stuff goes on all the time. See
(put some web-sites in here)

Why were the police so eager to put Mark Kirk away?
Some Theories:
1) Prosecutors run for office and win election by being hard on crime. They need sensational crimes to get attention by the press and the public. By charging Mark with murder and seeking the death penalty, they assure voters that neighbourhoods will be safe-- a great merit at election time.

2) Police forces are a big hierarchy which reward excellence with promotions and incremental salaries. Climbing the hierarchy requires achievements--busting crimes and getting convictions. Insisting that the fire started as a result of bad maintenance and negligence would not add a plume to anyone's cap. Getting a conviction for arson and murder is a big achievement. Both police and prosecutors love seeing their names in the paper, and the accolades that result.

3) Protect the insurance companies.
Delaware is a small state and the forces of authority and the forces of finance walk hand in hand. At the time of the fire, a scandal was uncovered at the site: the Beaver Brook apartment complex. Building inspectors were taking bribes to pass the inspection on buildings that were not meeting State codes and requirements. If the police claimed the fire started as a result of negligence, the liability fines would reach into millions of dollars. This would have necessitated a huge investigation, an exposure of graft and negligence, and subsequent arrests and trials of state employees.

Was Mark represented by competent legal counsel?

1) From day one, his lawyers never questioned the prosecution's assumptions, they just assumed that he was guilty, and tried to save him from the death penalty. They never administered a lie detector test, nor conducted an experiment to check the prosecution's claims. They naively assumed that Mark set the fire, and their only goal was to save him from the death penalty. On the the third day of the trial, after forensic expert Dr. Stanley Broskey testified, attorney Raymond Radulski whispered, "Hey, I'm starting to think you might be innocent."

2) Other problems occurred. When one attorney James Garvin Jr., was absent from court one afternoon. Mark enquired his whereabouts, Judge Norman Barron, hardly naive to the counsel before his bench, bluntly remarked, "Check the local tavern." When attorney Radulski was began working on another case during the proceedings, Mark stood up and complained to Judge Barron, and wasremoved from the courtroom.

I hear that Mark confessed? Is it true that many people confess to crimes which they did not commit?
Yes. Mark confessed after being threatened with the death penalty, and being denied a lawyer. The police taped the interrogation, but cut out large segments of the tape, making it look like Mark confessed freely of his own volition. Recently, a spate of literature and films about wrongful confessions has been published.

On the Internet:
"The Dreams of Ada"

American Justice
"The Confession of Michael Crowe"

Why did Mark choose to have a bench trial in front of a judge rather than a jury trial?
Remember, even his lawyers thought him guilty. Being tried in front of a jury would invite victim impact statements, and a sentence of death. A bench trial would leave the decision in the hands of the judge and better spare Mark from the horrors of lethal injection.

Is he being represented by counsel now?
No. Neither the US Constitution nor the State of Delaware provide counsel for post-conviction relief. If you can afford a lawyer, great, you can apply for retrial. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you must find one who will work for free or defend yourself.

Please mail any other questions and comments to us. We will answer them.!