Melvin Mikes

In 1980, a 76-year-old man was robbed and murdered in the basement of his fix-it shop in Los Angeles, California.  A chrome turnstile bar with many fingerprints was found at the scene and determined to be the murder weapon.  The victim had purchased the bar, which was previously used at the entrance of a hardware store, from the store’s going-out-of-business sale four months earlier.  In 1985, the police ran the fingerprints through the state’s newly created database and one set matched those of 25-year-old Melvin Mikes, who had previously been arrested for, but not convicted of auto theft.  Mikes had an alibi for the time of the murder – a witness was available to testify that he was on a picket line - but his defense attorney did not call any alibi witnesses.  Mikes was convicted by a jury in 1985 based solely on the presence of his fingerprints on the handle of the turnstile bar and sentenced to 25-years-to-life.  In 1991, the 9th Circuit granted his habeas corpus petition and ordered his release on the basis of insufficient evidence because the fingerprints could have been left on the bar when it was still at the hardware store, in use or on sale.  Mikes was finally released on October 21, 1992 when the Supreme Court denied the prosecution’s petition for certiorari review.

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State:California
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1980
Convicted:1985
Exonerated:1992
Sentence:25 to Life
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age:19
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No