Friday, November 20, 2009

After 4 Years In Jail, Man Gets Hearing on Innocence

jail or prison bars with bed
Yesterday, the Utah Court of Appeals ruled that Harry Miller is entitled to a hearing to determine his innocence. Miller was originally arrested in 2003 and accused of aggravated robbery. After a jury trial in February of 2004, he was convicted and sentenced to a prison term of five years to life. However, Mr. Miller claimed that he had an alibi. He claimed that on the date he was alleged to have committed the crime of aggravated robbery, he was recovering from a stroke in Louisiana.

Mr. Miller claims that his trial attorney did not go to the trouble of identifying alibi witnesses and that he would have been acquitted if the witnesses had been interviewed. Mr. Miller appealed his original conviction, but before all of the issues on appeal could be addressed, the State agreed to reverse the conviction in the interest of justice. After the reversal, the State decided not to proceed with prosecution.

After nearly four and a half years in jail, Mr. Miller was released in July of 2007. In 2008, the Utah legislature passed a Factual Innocence Statute which allows people who believe they have been wrongly accused to get a declaration of their innocence and compensation for the time that they were wrongly imprisoned.

The State argued that Mr. Miller was not entitled to a hearing on his innocence for technical reasons. The Court of Appeals disagreed with the State and ordered the hearing without deciding whether Mr. Miller will prevail on his claims.

Mr. Miller was represented by Andrew McCullough on appeal and the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center filed a brief supporting Mr. Miller. Utah criminal defense attorney Kelly Ann Booth believes that this decision will require Utah courts to "hear claims of factual innocence without making the person bringing the claims jump through myriad procedural hoops."

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