New York-based prodco Lion Television USA has optioned a deal for true crime author Edward Humes’ Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime that Wasn’t.
The book, originally published in January 2019 by Penguin Random House, recounts an April 1989 apartment fire in Los Angeles in which the three small children of Jo Ann Parks perished. Though the fire at first seemed a tragic accident, investigators soon turned their search to Parks, who escaped unharmed and was the sole survivor and only eyewitness. Investigators would soon find evidence that pointed to Parks having set the fire on purpose. and formed a case alleging that Parks had sabotaged wiring, set several fires, and barricaded her four-year-old son inside a closet to ensure he couldn’t escape.
Parks would receive a life sentence without parole based on the power of forensic fire science, despite her persistent claims of innocence.
More than a quarter century later, however, a lawyer with the California Innocence Project is challenging Parks’s conviction, claiming that “false assumptions and outright bias convicted an innocent mother of a crime that never actually happened.”
Under terms of the deal, Lion will develop a television adaptation based on the book. As such, the docuseries will closely follow the narrative and investigative course of the book, which is based on Humes’ years of research into the case.
The project will be executive produced by Lion’s Tony Tackaberry and Stan Hsue, as well as Humes.
Humes is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author. His past works include Garbology, Mississippi Mud and the award-winning No Matter How Loud I Shout.
“Burned allows both us as filmmakers and the audience the unique opportunity to approach a case as a reverse detective,” said Lion TV USA CEO Tony Tackaberry in a statement. “It’s nonstop suspense and surprising twists as outdated and wrongheaded science are investigated.”
“Exploring the dramatic story of the Parks fire — and the tunnel vision that may have infected the investigation from start to finish — will shine a spotlight on the crisis of flawed forensic science in the courtroom,” Humes added.