The California Innocence Project (CIP) at California Western School of Law has won another major victory in its ongoing mission to free the wrongfully convicted with the exoneration of Guy Miles, who served 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
California’s Division Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the conviction of Miles, finding that the result of the trial would have been different had the jury considered new evidence uncovered by the California Innocence Project.
On June 29, 1998, three men robbed a small loan office in Fullerton, California. Two witnesses viewed six-pack photo lineups and made cross-racial identifications. Despite numerous witnesses placing him in Las Vegas at the time, Guy Miles was identified, charged, and convicted as one of the three robbers. He was sentenced to 75-years-to-life.
Miles wrote to CIP and requested assistance. CIP initiated an investigation and uncovered not only unbiased alibi witnesses placing Miles in Las Vegas at the time of the crime, but the three true perpetrators came forward and admitted to committing the crime. All three of the perpetrators said Miles was not involved.
"This case highlights the classic problems with stranger eyewitness identification. It is just a shame it took so long to right this wrong," said Alissa Bjerkhoel, litigation coordinator at CIP. "Eighteen years means a lot of missed birthdays, holidays, weddings, and other cherished events. We are just so ecstatic this nightmare is coming to an end."
In 2013, three attorneys from CIP (Bjerkhoel, Michael Semanchik, and CIP Director Justin Brooks) walked 712 miles from San Diego to Sacramento to deliver a clemency petition for Miles to Governor Jerry Brown. They also delivered petitions for 11 other clients with strong cases of innocence, collectively known as the "California 12." When Miles is released, the project will have freed five of the 12 through litigation. The governor has yet to act on any of the clemency petitions.
"Justice was finally obtained today for Guy Miles and his family," said Justin Brooks, CIP director. "It's time to free the remaining seven of the 'California 12' who are wrongfully incarcerated. They are all just as innocent as Mr. Miles."
At this time, it is unclear if the ruling paves the way for Miles's release from prison. The Orange County District Attorney’s Office may refile the case. If the D.A. chooses not to retry the case, Miles could walk out of San Quentin within 60 days. If the case is retried or appealed to the California Supreme Court, Miles could remain in prison indefinitely.