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Man proves innocence and freed from prison after 35 years thanks to an episode of Mythbusters
Featured Image Credit: Beyond Distribution/Ray Abercrombie/Innocence Project

Man proves innocence and freed from prison after 35 years thanks to an episode of Mythbusters

A man was 21-years into a life sentence when he caught a life-changing episode of Discovery Channel’s MythBusters on the prison TV

A man was 21 years into a life sentence when he caught a life-changing episode of the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters on the prison TV.

As it turns out, in that particular episode, show-makers were attempting to disprove whether or not a lit cigarette could ignite a pool of gasoline - the very thing John Galvan was behind bars for.

What happened next is quite literally a Netflix true crime drama waiting to happen.

By the way, if you're never seen MythBusters, check out a trailer for the show below:

But first, let’s whizz back to September 1986, when a fire broke out at a Chicago apartment building.

Brothers Guadalupe and Julio Martinez were killed in the blaze, but their siblings Blanca and Jorge managed to escape.

Blanca and Jorge told police that a female neighbour had threatened to burn down the building in retaliation for her brother’s death.

They also said they were sure their neighbour's brother was killed by Latin Kings, a local street gang that Jorge was thought to be a member of. 

When the accused neighbour was questioned by police, she denied any involvement and pointed to John Galvan.

John Galvan was 21 years into a life sentence when he saw the episode.
The Innocence Project

She wasn’t the only one to mention Galvan’s name to police as two other neighbours, Jose Ramirez and Rene Rodriguez, also alleged he was involved alongside his brother and the brother of Arthur Almendarez - who was one of Galvan’s neighbours. 

Despite the fact Galvan had been asleep at his grandmother's at the time of the crime, he was arrested and brutally interrogated for hours under duress, leading to what he’s always said was a false confession. 

This resulted in him being convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated arson, landing a life-sentence behind bars.

Fast forward to 2007 and Galvan, by chance, ended up watching a MythBusters episode called ‘Hollywood on Trial’, in which the scientific validity of famous movie scenes were put to the test.

In his confession statement, Galvan had admitted to lighting a Molotov cocktail with a cigarette, but the Mythbusters episode proved such a move was pretty much impossible. 

Galvan contacted his lawyer, who had coincidentally also seen the episode, and with the help of arson experts who attested to the near impossibility of lighting gasoline with cigarettes, Galvan's exoneration was secured.

Rebecca Brown, the Innocence Project’s director of policy, said in a press release: “Mr. Galvan’s case speaks to the critical importance of establishing such mechanisms for people to get back into court when science changes or evolves, or when experts repudiate past testimony.”

An episode of MythBusters proved that a cigarette could not light gasoline.
Image Source/Alamy Stock Photo

She added: “Without these mechanisms in many instances, innocent people are prevented from presenting forensic evidence of their innocence after their wrongful conviction.”

After a total of 35 years behind bars, Galvan was released earlier this year and has since been adjusting to life as a free man - although it hasn't been without its challenges.

"It’s been hard, I feel out of place, there’s a lot to learn and I don’t know where I’m supposed to be … I don’t know what to do,” he said to the Innocence Project.

But, as the project outlined, he has been finding his footing bit by bit and is most looking forward to having his own space to call home and getting back to drawing and painting.

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Topics: Film and TV, Crime, US News