In December 2000, an elderly white woman was robbed at knifepoint in a store in Salt Lake City, Utah. The woman told police the robber was between 18 and 21 years old.
Three years later, the victim saw Harry Miller, a 47-year-old black man, on the street, and identified him to the police as her robber. The victim again identified Miller in a photo lineup and then in an in-person lineup. A clerk at the store also identified Miller as a customer, saying he knew Miller because he came into the store several times between July 2000 and December 2000.
Miller told police that he had lived in Louisiana since May 2000, and was there at the time of the robbery. Two weeks before the crime, he had suffered a stroke. He was unable to drive and required frequent care. His in-home nurse said that she had visited him in Louisiana on the day before the crime.
Nonetheless, Miller was charged with the armed robbery. Though prosecutors stipulated to the fact that Miller had suffered a stroke in November 2000, and was on medical leave from his job until mid-December 2000, they argued that Miller could have committed the crime. According to the prosecution, Miller could have left his house shortly after his nurse saw him, flown to Utah, robbed the woman of $50, and then flown back home in time for people to see him in Louisiana that same day. Miller’s attorney failed to call any of his alibi witnesses, leaving only Miller to testify in his own defense.
In December 2003, a jury convicted Miller of armed robbery and he was sentenced to 5-years-to-life in prison.
Miller appealed his conviction, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. In January 2007, the prosecution and Miller’s attorney filed a stipulated motion for a reversal of Miller’s conviction because of an unspecified error in his original trial. The Utah Court of Appeals granted the motion, and Miller was scheduled for retrial in July 2007. A week before retrial, the district attorney dismissed all charges.
Following the dismissal of the charges, Miller filed a petition for a finding of factual innocence, a prerequisite to receive up to $160,000 in statutory compensation for the years he was incarcerated. Though Miller’s petition was initially denied, he appealed, and was granted a hearing and the petition for a finding of factual innocence was granted on September 12, 2011.
- Stephanie Denzel