In light of widespread protests for racial equality, a man who spent more than 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit is using his personal story to underscore racial inequities within the justice system.
“We want to be able to step into a courtroom and know that we’re being represented equally and not being intimidated,” said Guy Miles, who now lives in Arlington, Texas, a free man at age 55 following his wrongful conviction nearly two decades ago.
In June 1998, three men robbed a loan office in Fullerton. Despite numerous witnesses placing Miles in Las Vegas, he was identified in a photo lineup as the suspect by two witnesses who made cross-racial identifications, when the witness and the person being identified are of different racial backgrounds.
Miles was sentenced to 75-years to life.
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The state appeals court reversed the conviction in 2017, finding the result of the trial would have been different had the jury considered new evidence, according to the California Innocence Project, which helped secure his release.
“There’s no doubt the color of his skin impacted his conviction,” said Justin Brooks, attorney and founder of the California Innocence Project.
“We need to recognize that race impacts identifications in a profound way. We need to instruct jurors as to that. We need to educate judges to that, and the general public, so when they look at cross-racial identifications, they start thinking, maybe this isn’t correct,” said Brooks.
According to a 2017 report in the National Registry of Exonerations, African Americans made up 13% of the population, yet 47% of those exonerated were Black.
“Unless you’re a person that it’s happening to, you probably can sympathize with it, but you’re not feeling the pain that’s actually happened,” said Miles.
Guy Miles has now been out of prison for three years and is using his personal story as a platform to point out the racial inequities in the justice system, which he hopes will resonate with others.
“Actually letting other races know how we feel, and what we’ve been through and just try to get that point across to where they can just respect what I’m saying, and say ‘OK, we need to change,'” said Miles.