Michigan man exonerated for murder he did not commit

| May 28, 2021 | Post-conviction Relief |

Innocent people remain behind bars in U.S. prisons. The world continues to learn about their stories, outraged by the fact their convictions were often based on unreliable evidence, untruths and bungled investigations. Among the recent cases that come to mind is that of a Michigan man, freed on May 26 after spending 32 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

Gilbert Poole Jr. long attested his innocence in the 1988 death of a man found stabbed to death in the Detroit suburb of Pontiac. He was convicted a year later on evidence that included a statement from his girlfriend that Poole confessed to the murder and a bite mark on the victim that a dentist attributed to Poole. However, DNA evidence later resolved Poole from the crime.

Innocence Project took up cause

Like many innocent people fighting false charges, Poole relied on the help of a group of empathetic, knowledgeable and driven allies. While he denied his involvement and challenged his conviction for years, Poole’s cries of unfairness were heard by members of the Innocence Project at Western Michigan University (WMU) Cooley Law School. Since 2003, the group of students from the Innocence Project had been working on freeing Poole.

A major break in the investigation came in 2015 after a Michigan appeals court ordered DNA testing of evidence collected at the crime scene. Investigators discovered a blood type that did not match either the victim or Poole. This development attributed the evidence to an “unknown contributor.” Soon after, the Innocence Project requested a new investigation in the case.

Poole remained hopeful after receiving a life sentence without parole in June 1989. A judge overturned his conviction, and Poole gained his freedom.

There are many people like Poole waiting in the legal system. They have stories to share; stories proving their innocence. Such cases may take years to resolve, but all it often takes is the dedication of an advocate ready to listen and investigate in seeking the truth.