For his entire adult life — 42 years to be exact — Louis Taylor has been behind bars.
The Tucson man, now 58, was convicted in 1970 of starting a hotel fire in which 29 people perished.
But Taylor, who was at the downtown Tucson hotel that day to steal Christmas party food and drinks, and who was seen helping people out of the building once the blaze began to spread, has already paid a heavy price for prosecutorial negligence.
And even his release this week came with strings attached: Taylor was forced to plead no contest to 28 counts of murder in return for a sentence of time served.
Though prosecutors admitted they probably would not be able to get a second conviction with a new trial, waiting for one would have meant a few more years in prison for Taylor, and that was unacceptable.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Taylor thanked his attorneys for their support.
"I went to In-N-Out Burger and they gave me a t-shirt, so now I'm going to ask for endorsements," Taylor joked. "You can't make up for 42 years. You just have to move forward."