A DuPage County judge will rule Wednesday whether to send a former Naperville man back to prison to finish serving the final year of a 23-year sentence or to set him free for the first time since 1995.
Judge Liam Brennan will decide William Amor's future at 10 a.m. in Wheaton.
Amor's nearly two-week bench trial concluded Feb. 2, but Brennan said he needed time to review his notes and evidence before handing down a verdict.
Amor was convicted in 1997 of arson and murder in connection with the 1995 death of his mother-in-law, Marianne Miceli, in a fire at a Naperville condo on the 1800 block of Baily Road.
But Brennan vacated that conviction last April after ruling that advances in fire science proved the description of the crime Amor gave in his confession to police -- that he started the fire with a cigarette and a vodka-soaked newspaper -- was impossible.
Amor has been free on $100,000 bail since last May awaiting his second trial.
Prosecutors James Scaliatine and Thomas Minser, in their closing arguments this month, insisted that just because experts debunked the way Amor confessed to starting the fire doesn't mean he didn't intentionally ignite the blaze some other way.
And they said Amor, 39 at the time, unemployed and down on his luck, was counting on killing Marianne Miceli to collect her life insurance policy to jump-start a better life for himself and his 18-year-old bride, Tina Miceli.
They pointed to a 1995 letter Amor had written Tina in which he allegedly wrote that he had a plan for "capital gains later that summer."
"He was miserable. His situation was untenable and he wanted out," Minser said after playing a snippet of Amor's audio-taped confession to Naperville police. "And his way out was to murder Marianne Miceli."
As for the confession, "Believe him when he told you he's a murderer," Minser told Brennan.
That confession, Amor's attorneys say, was coerced from a highly suggestible man who had just lost his home, all his belongings, his mother-in-law and, ultimately, his marriage when he was served divorce papers during his interrogation.
His attorneys, from the Illinois Innocence Project, say science shows the fire would have reached a fatal level much sooner than the estimated 20 minutes it took if Amor had ignited it.
Testimony showed Amor and Miceli left to see a drive-in movie showing of "Babe," a movie about "a pig who doesn't conform to his farm's social hierarchy," about 20 minutes before Marianne Miceli's 6:40 p.m. 911 call to report she was "overcome with smoke."
Instead, his attorneys and their experts pointed to a theory that a small fire, possibly from a careless smoker, could have smoldered for as long as five hours before finally erupting into the fatal blaze.
According to trial testimony, Marianne Miceli smoked about two packs of cigarettes a day. Amor and Tina also smoked in the home.
"There's no way to rule out an accidental fire in this case," defense attorney Tara Thompson said in her closing argument. "That's at least reasonable doubt. Science gives us reasonable doubt."