Back in his parents' Carson home for the first time in more than 18 years, Guy Miles sat at the kitchen table, soaking up hugs and well wishes from a steady stream of extended family and friends, and pondering the future that is his again now that his 75 year prison sentence has been replaced by time served.
"I'm feeling good, real good," said Miles, sporting a new Dodgers baseball cap. "I don't want to be one of them bitter people, mad at the world because of what happened to me."
Miles had steadfastly maintained his innocence in the 1998 Fullerton armed robbery for which he was convicted a year later. It was considered a third strike, which led to the long sentence.
While in prison, Miles sought legal assistance to win his freedom.
"It's been a tough road, but love can keep a family together," said his mother Mabel Miles. "We see a future for him, so none of us gave up."
He persuaded the California Innocence Project to take his case, and raising questions about witness identification and other issues, they convinced an appellate court in January to overturn the original conviction, and return the case to trial court.
But instead of a new trial, an agreement Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court instead resulted in Miles being freed. Miles did not contest the two counts of robbery the District Attorney re-filed, and with the dismissal of one of the prior strikes against him, the actual time he has served plus credits covered the 21 years and eight months to which he was sentenced.
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Leaving the Theo Lacy Jail, Miles wore an Innocence Project shirt emblazoned, "XONR8." The Orange County District Attorney's Office took exception to the notion Miles had been exonerated.
"This is not a story of an innocent man who got his freedom but one of a guilty man who finally accepted responsibility but was granted some mercy," reads in part the DA's statement.
"They never want to admit they're wrong, so I'm not surprised. Frustrated, but not surprised," said Miles Wednesday.
"Our client was faced with a very difficult decision," said attorney Justin Brooks, California Innocence Project director. "Did he want his family to go through another trial? Did he want to go through another trial? Did he want to risk being convicted again by a jury, even though they were wrong in convicting him?"
Miles will turn 52 next month. He has a lot of catching up to do, and this week expects to be be visiting with his six grown children and their grandchildren.
He acknowledges he does not have a career to resume. He might go back to school, he said, or see if the Innocence Project has a job for him helping others who feel they've been convicted unfairly.