It's easy to understand why Louis Taylor is so distracted.
After spending 42 years in prison, he is curious about the world around him, a world that has changed greatly since his initial incarceration, at age 17 when a Phoenix jury found him guilty on 28 counts of murder stemming from the 1970 Pioneer Hotel fire.
Trying to converse with him for longer than two minutes Wednesday was a challenge as he constantly looked around the conference room at the office of one of his attorneys, before he jumped up and announcing he was going outside for a smoke. On a downtown Tucson sidewalk Wednesday afternoon, the diversions multiplied as pedestrians walked past, a fire engine roared by and well-wishers ask to pose for photos.
He's eager to see everything and talk to everyone.
Including the ladies.
Before - and after - going out to smoke, Taylor stopped by the desk of the receptionist to chat her up. Outside he paid particular attention to the women walking by.
He is adapting quickly to the technological advances made during his 42 years in prison even if he hasn't quite mastered the lingo.
At his news conference Taylor talked about what he did on Tuesday, his first day of freedom: "Last night I tried to call five girls on this Apple phone, and all I got was email. Back in the '70s, we had eight-tracks and had to dial the phone."
After the news conference he joked that Tuesday night "I was trying to get the sex channel on the iPhone. I want to reintegrate."
Taylor might have to wait until he's settled to "reintegrate."
Next week he and his attorneys will tour transitional housing designated for former inmates re-entering society. After that, his attorneys said Taylor will enroll in a program that provides life-skills training and assists released prisoners in finding long-term employment.
Periodically over the next year reporter Kimberly Matas will check in with Louis Taylor to find out how he's doing after spending 42 years, from the ages of 17 to 59, in prison, as part of an ongoing series.
Pioneer Hotel fire
When fire broke out at the Pioneer Hotel in downtown Tucson just after midnight Dec. 20, 1970, many guests were left trapped in their rooms. Twenty-eight men, women and children died. Louis Cuen Taylor, then 16 and known to local police as a "delinquent," was hanging around the hotel that night. Though he helped rescue some of the injured or trapped guests, he was quickly arrested by police. Eventually he was convicted of 28 counts of murder and spent 42 years in prison. He maintained his innocence throughout.
The Arizona Justice Project has been helping to overturn - and prevent - wrongful convictions in Arizona for 15 years. When it was established in 1998, it became the fifth organization in the United States created to help inmates overturn wrongful convictions. Today, there are more than 60 similar organizations throughout the country. The Arizona Justice Project is primarily a volunteer-based organization that reviews and assists in cases of actual innocence or cases in which a manifest injustice has occurred. To date, the project has reviewed more than 3,500 Arizona cases, and currently has 45 cases in court or under the supervision of a review team.
For more information about the justice project, or to make a donation, go to www.azjusticeproject.org
The Arizona Justice Project is also accepting donations on behalf of Louis Cuen Taylor, who was released recently after 42 years behind bars. Anyone wanting to help should make check payable to Taylor and mail them to:
c/o Arizona Justice Project
P.O. Box 875920
Tempe, AZ 85287-5920