Wrongly Convicted Texas Inmate Freed after 15 years

By Caleb Groos on October 13, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Yesterday, a Texas court freed Richard Miles, who was serving 40 years for a murder committed in 1994. Prosecutors admitted that Miles' trial had been tainted by failure to notify Miles or his attorney of another man's confession, and that Miles is likely innocent. Miles' attorneys will press on -- with the aim of a formal finding of innocence, which would entitle him to compensation for the 15 years he spent behind bars.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Miles was released straight from the courtroom -- with the court and prosecutors forgoing the usual trip back to jail for release processing. Miles had been convicted for a shooting that left one person dead. After spending one year in custody before being tried, he spent 14 more years behind bars.

What was wrong with his trial? Most importantly, the defense was never informed of a call received by a woman reporting another man's confession to committing the crime. The Morning News cites the Dallas County District Attorney as stating that police (rather than prosecutors) failed to report the call.

Beyond the other confession, the trial's key piece of evidence -- the testimony of an eye witness -- was also laden with problems. According to the Morning News, the witness identified Miles after having seen police escort him out of a squad car in handcuffs. She picked him out of a photo line up in which Miles was the only man wearing a white tank top (which the gunman was described as wearing).

After being released, Miles (who was convicted when he was 19) hugged his mother, who immediately cut off his jail ID bracelet.

So what happens now with Mr. Miles?

Though he's been released with no indication that he'll be retried for the offense, it will require a formal finding of innocence for him to pursue compensation for the year of his life spent in jail. In Texas, this means $80,000 per year plus an annuity worth at least $40,000.

As described by The Innocence Project, Texas' new compensation law (which went into effect in September) is the most generous amongst the 27 states which have passed laws to compensate those convicted of crimes but later found to be innocent. In addition to wrongly served jail time, it covers time spent on parole.

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