Dallas County jurors who sent Richard Miles to prison for 40 years never knew another man had been implicated in the same shooting incident.Many kudos to Centurion Ministries for digging into this case and discovering the exculpatory evidence concealed way back in 1995. Excellent work! Watkins and his Conviction Integrity Unit chief Mike Ware also deserve a lot of credit for owning up to past mistakes and trying to make things right.
It took 14 years and detective work by a prisoner advocacy group to unearth reports in police files that suggested others could have committed the murder and attempted murder that sent Miles to prison.
That discovery is set to get Miles released on Monday.
Dallas County prosecutors have agreed to dismiss his 1995 convictions because police failed to turn over exculpatory evidence.
State District Judge Andy Chatham is expected to release Miles on bond pending a final decision from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
Miles' defense attorney, Cheryl Wattley, said she was optimistic he would not face a second trial.
The claim that Miles, 34, is innocent is still being investigated by the DA's office.
"We have serious questions as to whether he was convicted of a crime that was committed by someone else," said Mike Ware, who oversees the DA's conviction integrity unit.
Miles was convicted in the May 1994 shootings of Deandre Williams and Robert Ray Johnson Jr. near a gas station in the Bachman Lake area. Both men were shot multiple times while sitting in a car. Williams died. Johnson lived but was permanently disabled.
If Miles is exonerated, he would be the second man District Attorney Craig Watkins has agreed was wrongly convicted in cases that did not involve DNA evidence.
Miles would be at least the sixth Dallas County inmate in the last two years to have his conviction voided because exculpatory evidence was not disclosed.
Speaking of prosecutors, if six times in the last two years convictions in Dallas were voided because exculpatory evidence wasn't disclosed, I'm curious how many of the prosecutors involved were disciplined as a result by the state bar? Wanna bet the answer is "zero"? (Perhaps the Dallas News reporters can let us know that tidbit in a followup report or on the paper's Crime Blog.)
Finally, it's worth mentioning there have been other non-DNA exonerations in Dallas before Craig Watkins arrived on the scene, most notably the two-dozen people falsely convicted in the Dallas fake-drug scandal, who were victimized by mendacious informants and corrupt police officers.
Indeed, I've always said that DNA exonerations are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the number of innocent people sitting in prison. Biological evidence only exists in about 10% of violent crimes in the first place, and even then, in most older cases, the evidence hasn't been preserved. By contrast, faulty eyewitnesses, lying informants, junk science, and unethical police, to name a few examples, can crop up in all types of cases.
The DNA exonerations open up a valuable window onto the causes of false convictions, the same way a pollster gains insight into public opinion by sampling a small number of voters, etc.. But Richard Miles' case reminds us that it's important to look beyond DNA exonerees when discussing "innocence" in the justice system. They represent just a small number of what's almost certainly a much larger group of innocent people currently incarcerated.