Gilbert Poole Jr: Man cleared of murder and set free after 32 years in prison

‘We are thrilled that the truth has finally been established,’ lawyer says

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 27 May 2021 09:59 BST
Gilbert Poole Jr leaves prison with his lawyer after his murder conviction was overturned
Gilbert Poole Jr leaves prison with his lawyer after his murder conviction was overturned

A man has been cleared of murder and freed from jail in the US after spending more than three decades behind bars.

Authorities found 56-year-old Gilbert Poole Jr had been wrongly convicted based on faulty evidence, which included a bite mark on the victim.

He had been sentenced to jail while in his 20s and was freed on Wednesday after spending 32 years in prison.

Images showed Mr Poole, with a long beard and wearing a cap, leaving prison with his hands in the air after being cleared of the crime.

“We are thrilled that the truth has finally been established,” his lawyer, Marla Mitchell-Cichon, said.

In 1989, Mr Poole was convicted of the murder of Robert Mejia, who was stabbed to death and found near a running path in Pontiac, a city in Michigan, the year before.

Mr Poole’s girlfriend told police that he had confessed to her that he met Mejia in a bar and later killed him during a violent robbery attempt and a dentist linked him to a bite mark on the victim.

He repeatedly denied any role in the murder and had spent years challenging his conviction with the support of the Innocence Project at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School (WMU-Cooley Innocence Project).

In 2015, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered DNA testing of biological material gathered by police in 1988.

There was evidence of type A blood at the scene, which didn’t match Mejia’s or Mr Poole‘s blood, with an expert saying there was “evidence of an unknown contributor who is not the defendant or the victim”.

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project filed an application to the Michigan Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit for the case to be reinvestigated.

On Wednesday, an Oakland County judge overturned the conviction, more than three decades after it was handed down.

“Mr Poole’s conviction was based on unreliable evidence, including a bite mark comparison, which is not based on science,” his lawyer, Ms Mitchell-Cichon, said.

Mr Poole said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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