The Innocent Man in Prison

February 4, 2013

The exoneration of the innocent person typically comes down to proving the unreliability of eyewitness identification, or that there was false testimony, or that the DNA didn’t match. It’s all about the fundamental principle that The Truth Will Set You Free. However, in most cases, it comes down to whose truth is believed by whom.

This interesting concept has given me the opportunity to delve into the life of a man who has presented strong evidence showing someone else committed the crime that he’s in prison for. The evidence includes the fact that the real perpetrator has come forth and has told a judge, “I’m the real criminal.”

Followers of Life of the Law and San Quentin News (February edition) will be privy to Guy Miles, first hand, by going into his case and interviewing him. (Use the comments section below to ask any question you like, and we will get them to him.)

I sat with Guy yesterday. Guy has been in prison since 1998 for a robbery he says he didn’t commit. He’s serving a sentence of 75-years to life. The details of how he was convicted are not really that interesting, but Guy’s a black man. (It’s easier to get convicted in any court in America for that simple fact–being someone of color.)

A number of years into his sentence, Guy happened to bump into the real robber. The encounter went really well for Guy. The real robber, who he named, signed an affidavit giving details about the crime well enough for The Innocence Project to pick up the case. So, we’ve got Guy demanding his freedom, sayin’, “I didn’t do it–lemme out!”

The Innocence Project does its thing, piecing together this fact and that person, so on and so on. The case really looks good, the confession and all. So all this info is presented to court. But the judge says, I don’t believe any of the stuff you’ve presented.

If and when all reason shows something is what it is, do you follow reason, or do you follow the law? There’s a saying in the realm of legal scholars: “It may not be fair, but it’s legal.”

This year California taxpayers will fork over $8.6 billion to incarcerate about 120,000 people, while a mere $2.7 billion will go to K-12 education. Is there something wrong with that picture?

Let’s assume our prosecutors and courts are 99.5 percent accurate they’re getting it right. Law-abiding citizens could rightfully conclude that a judicial system that’s 99.5 percent accurate is a really good system. How can someone criticize any system where there’s a less than one-half of one percent chance of error? That being said, that means there are 600 people in California prisons who are innocent of the crime they’re convicted of. But what if it you were included in that 600 number? Or it happened to be your brother, sister, mother or father? Think about being imprisoned for decades, but you’re not the guy! How would that make you feel?

Juan Haines is an inmate at San Quentin State Prison. He is Managing Editor of the San Quentin News and works as a jailhouse attorney.

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