Innocent Man Went To Prison For Murder; WMU Project Got Him Freed
Maybe this story isn’t as “sexy” as “The Fugitive”, but this story is true and it's real, and is one of several that just make you shake your head and wonder how do things like this happen. And with some pride, we know the cause of justice was helped by WMU’s Cooley Law School.
“I have to say that I didn’t understand what was happening back in 1988 when I came to court to be tried for a murder I didn’t commit. At 22 years old, and a thousand miles away from anyone I knew, I kicked and screamed and stomped my feet and said this is not right,” - Gilbert Lee Poole at his hearing.
Here’s what happened.
On June 7, 1988, the body of Robert Mejia was found near a running path in Pontiac, Michigan. Mejia had been stabbed to death. He was last seen alive at a Pontiac bar and several bar patrons provided a description of a man who was with Mejia when he left the bar. Based on those descriptions, composite drawings were posted, but no leads developed and the case went cold. Then, in November 1988, Poole’s then girlfriend implicated Poole in the murder. According to WMU's Innocence Project, despite her inability to provide accurate details about when the crime occurred, she became the state’s key witness.
The Innocence Project Steps In
Poole's lawyers at his trial didn't bring up several blood samples that were found at the crime scene. DNA testing excluded Poole from the crime scene and implicated an unknown individual. .
Poole’s WMU lawyer, Marla Mitchell-Cichon said, “Mr. Poole’s conviction was based on unreliable evidence, including a bite mark comparison, which is not based on science.”
Like a 1950's B Movie
“I spent decades learning, reading, studying law, but none of that was working for me. It wasn’t until I surrendered to a higher power and God stepped in and sent me a band of angels to look past the rules and regulations and looked to see who was standing in the furnace. I was standing in the furnace. I didn’t belong here. I have to thank each and every one of you, without you this wasn’t possible.” - Gilbert Lee Poole.
The Innocence Project is part of a nation-wide effort. In Michigan, it has exonerated five men since 2003. It is staffed by WMU Cooley Law students under the supervision of attorneys.