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LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) --The arson conviction of a St. Matthews business owner has been overturned. Susan Lukjan was convicted of setting her St. Matthews business on fire to recover insurance money.
It was a highly controversial case, and on Friday the Kentucky Court of Appeals ordered a new trial.
"I am still shaking, I am very very happy." That was Lukjan's reaction to the ruling at a news conference at her attorney's office in downtown Louisville. The court overturned her conviction for second degree arson and insurance fraud.
At her trial the prosecution had said she was having financial problems so she set the fire to collect the insurance money. "This was totally unfair," she said on Friday, "I did not do anything."
In 2010, a jury found her guilty of the charges and sentenced her to twelve years in prison, but she was released a year ago on shock probation.
In its ruling the appeals court says there were reversible errors and calls for a new trial. "We are looking forward to a second trial that does not have those errors," says Lukjak's attorney Tom Clay, "and the jury will get to hear the whole story."
The Court of Appeals says the lower court improperly excluded testimony from the defense's fire expert witness, while at the same time allowing the prosecution's three experts to testify.
For the past year Lukjan says she has been trying to rebuild her life. "I pretty much lost everything," she says, "from my car, to my business, to my home; I am still living with friends but I have started a new business and it is growing."
Clay had asked the Court of Appeals to disqualify Judge Audra Eckerle from the case, but the appeals court did not rule on that matter.
The Commonwealth's Attorneys office says it is studying the decision and is considering an appeal of its own. "This could go on for some time as the appeals process works itself out," says Clay.
Click on the link to the right to see the full decision.