Justice finally prevailed for an innocent man who spent 21 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
John Miller, 44, from Philadelphia is a free man now and says he does not hold anything against anyone after spending half his life behind bars. Now he wants to enjoy his life by taking his niece to the zoo, having a good steak and learning about smart phones.
Miller was put in prison in spite of a weak and wavering testimony of only one person and no physical evidence. The jury convicted him of second-degree murder in 1998 and sentenced him to life in prison for the murder of Anthony Mullen, who was shot and killed while he was at work as a parking lot attendant in Philadelphia in October 1996.
His arrest was based on the testimony of Miller’s childhood acquaintance, David Williams, who too was arrested for robbery at the same time. He thought that his own sentence would be reduced if he would get Miller arrested for killing Mullen.
Williams was “willing to say just about anything, including demonstrably and incontestably false information, in an attempt to reduce his sentence,” court documents read. Williams told police that Miller confessed to him about the murder, but later he confessed to being the real murderer.
But the courts were not convinced that Williams’ confession was genuine and thought that he was making it up. In December 2002, Williams again confessed to being the murderer in a letter he wrote to Miller’s mother. He wrote, “I can’t live with this on my conscience,” Williams wrote, he added, “Your son had no knowledge of this crime. He wasn’t even there. I lied on him.”
Miller had filed over 10 appeals from 1998 to 2011, but all were denied, said his legal defense team Pepper Hamilton LLP. It was in 2011, that the Pennsylvania Innocence Project (PAIP) decided to take his case. Pepper Hamilton and the PAIP team spent 8 years and more than 3,000 hours to help Miller get his freedom, said the Pepper Hamilton release.
They brought out exculpatory evidence “that had not been previously disclosed to Muller,” the release stated. It was “pivotal” to allowing Miller to go free.
On July 31, Miller was released from prison. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is yet to state whether it will charge Williams for the killing or not.
“I’m very happy and excited that after 21 years I’m finally being heard and that my innocence has reached the surface,” Miller said in a statement provided by Pepper Hamilton.
“I’m going home to my family. I’m overwhelmed, excited, and happy. I have a good team who helped me through this. Without them, I don’t know what would have happened or where I would have been.”
Thomas Gallagher, Chairman of Pepper Hamilton, took on Miller’s case on a pro-bono basis, and was happy to see Miller released. “The entire team at Pepper Hamilton is thrilled for both John and his family,” Gallagher in the Pepper Hamilton news release. “To see John walk out of prison as a free man today is an almost indescribable feeling. It has been an honor to represent John and a pleasure to partner with the PAIP over the past eight years to secure his freedom.”
Hannah McPhelin, a member of Miller’s legal defense team, said Miller showed incredible fortitude over the years. “I am in awe of the strength, resolve and willpower John has shown over the past 21 years,” McPhelin said in the Pepper Hamilton news release. “He is a man of tremendous patience and grace.”
Even though it took a long 21 years for Miller to come out of prison, we are glad that justice has finally been done to him. But the story has highlighted the fact that our law punished an innocent man in a haste but took so long to do justice to him.