A Pennsylvania man is now free more than two decades after he was found guilty of second-degree murder in a crime he’s long said he’s innocent of committing.
John Miller was released from the State Correctional institution in Frackville, Pennsylvania, Wednesday after 21 years behind bars. Prosecutors declined to retry him on the grounds that evidence was lacking, according to court records obtained by CNN.
A Common Pleas Court judge ordered Miller’s release after a motion filed this week in the District Attorney’s Office stated there was “insufficient evidence” for a case against Miller to be made.
“I’m very happy and excited that after 21 years I’m finally being heard and that my innocence has reached the surface,” Miller said in a written statement through his attorney. “I’m going home to my family. I’m overwhelmed, excited, and happy.”
Miller was released just hours after a hearing occurred where all charges against him were dismissed.
In 1997, Miller was convicted for the October 1996 murder of parking lot attendant Anthony Mullen, which occurred during a robbery attempt outside Philadelphia’s main railroad station 30th Street Station, CNN reported. Found to be at fault for second-degree murder, Miller was sentenced to life in prison.
In 2002, David Williams, who was was the witness who identified Miller as the killer, wrote a letter to Miller’s mother confessing to the killing.
“I can’t live with this on my conscience. Your son had no knowledge of this crime. He wasn’t even there. I lied on him,” court documents state he wrote.
Upon speaking to police as a witness in the ’90s, Williams said Miller had confessed to him that he killed Mullen. He told police that in exchange for leniency in another case, according to court documents.
“Williams’ statement to the police was the crux of the case against defendant,” the DA’s office’s motion said.
Yet even with the letter Williams sent to Miller’s mother, the newly freed man’s lawyer, Thomas Gallagher of Pepper Hamilton LLC, said in a news release that all 10 appeals previously had been denied.
However, that changed in 2009 when the Pennsylvania Innocence Project got involved with Miller’s case.
“Sometimes people in the system get numb to a really valid claim and we worked very hard — Pepper Hamilton and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project working together, just trying to give John Miller a chance to be heard,” Gallagher said to CBS Philadelphia.
As for Miller, he doesn’t feel angry about losing 21 years of his life to prison. Instead, he told the news outlet he feels “thankful and blessed”
“I feel good. I feel amazing, it’s surreal. I’m just very happy,” he said.