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John Miller

Other Philadelphia CIU Exonerations
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Shortly after 11 p.m. on October 8, 1996, 49-year-old Anthony Mullen was fatally shot while working as an attendant at the Five Star parking lot near the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

He had been shot once in the chest and was found next to his van. Police found three .25-caliber casings on the ground and a .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol under his body that had jammed. Police also recovered a nine-millimeter shell casing and a nine-millimeter expended slug.

In February 1997, police arrested David Williams and Mark Manigault on charges of robbery. Police later said that during questioning, Williams offered to provide information on the Mullen murder as well as another unrelated murder in exchange for favorable treatment. He was subsequently interviewed by a homicide detective and said that Mullen was killed by 21-year-old John Miller, who was an acquaintance who lived in the same neighborhood as Williams. Williams said Miller admitted the murder to him and said that he got the gun from another neighborhood resident named Michael Arnold. Williams said that Manigault had information about the Mullen murder as well.

Williams also said that a man named Jack Williams was involved in a different murder.

On June 3, 1997, police arrested Miller on charges of second-degree murder, armed robbery, and possession of an instrument of crime. At a preliminary hearing in October 1997, David Williams recanted his accusation against Miller and testified that police had threatened him until he implicated Miller. Williams also testified that he named Miller because Miller was angry at him because Williams had stolen a pager from Miller.

Prosecutors also presented testimony from Arnold. Arnold testified that in August 1996, about two months before Mullen was killed, there had been a fight in his neighborhood and he came outside carrying a nine-millimeter pistol. He said that when police were called, he dropped the gun, and that Miller picked it up and took it home. Arnold said that a day before the murder, he happened to ask Miller if he still had the gun and Miller said that he did.

Despite Williams’s recantation, Miller went to trial in Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in September 1998. Williams testified and again recanted his accusation against Miller. He told the jury that in addition to threatening him, police fed him the details of the crime. The prosecution impeached Williams by calling detectives who denied threatening him and testified about his statement implicating Miller. Arnold testified as well about how Miller picked up and kept the gun.

On September 29, 1998, the jury convicted Miller of second-degree murder, armed robbery, and possession of an instrument of crime. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In May 2001, Miller, acting without a lawyer, filed a post-conviction petition seeking a new trial based on statements from Terry Scruggs and Clinton Bailey. Scruggs and Bailey said that David Williams admitted to them separately that he killed Mullen and asked for their help in disposing of the murder weapon. A hearing was granted and in August 2002, Scruggs and Bailey testified about Williams’s admission. Common Pleas Judge John Poserina, who presided over Miller’s trial, said the witnesses were not credible and denied the petition.

While that ruling was being appealed, a defense motion to remand the case to the trial court was granted in May 2003 so that Miller could present a letter that Williams wrote to Miller’s mother saying that he killed Mullen.

Williams testified at a hearing in July 2003 that he had provided drugs to Mullen on credit and went to the parking lot to collect his money. He said that Mullen pulled out a pistol and began shooting at him. He said he fired once in return and fled. During cross-examination, the prosecution threatened Williams with the death penalty.

Judge Poserina found that Williams was not credible because he said Mullen was a white man who was wearing a green jacket and was shot in the parking lot office. when in fact Mullen was a black man who was wearing a red jacket and was shot by his van.

After the hearing, Williams was charged with perjury. In February 2004, Williams pled guilty to the charge and was sentenced to one to three years in prison.

In October 2004, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld the denial of Miller’s post-conviction petition. In October 2005, he filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which was denied in January 2007.

In October 2007, Miller filed another post-conviction petition in the Court of Common Pleas based on a statement from Andre Monroe, who was in prison with Miller. Monroe said he saw the murder and that Williams was the killer. The petition was dismissed as untimely filed.

In April 2011, Miller filed a third post-conviction petition based upon a letter written by Williams and sent to Miller’s mother. In this letter, Williams said he was not trying to collect a drug debt, but in fact was trying to rob Mullen. The petition also said that Arnold had recanted his trial testimony that Miller got the gun from him. Arnold said that he lied because he and Miller were competing drug dealers, and he wanted Miller out of the way.

The petition was amended later that year to add another letter from Williams in which he said he accused Miller of the murder because “we had a drug-selling rivalry and I wanted him off the block.” The peition also added a statement from Manigault, who was arrested on the robbery charges with Williams in 1997. Manigault said that while he and Williams were in jail, Williams told him he was going to pin a homicide he had committed on someone else. The petition, however, was dismissed as untimely filed.

In February 2012, while Miller was appealing this dismissal, his legal team, which by now included the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and Pepper Hamilton LLP, filed another federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

The following month, Miller sought to remand his post-conviction petition to the Court of Common Pleas based on a statement obtained from Jack Williams—the man whom David Williams had implicated in a murder back in 1997. Jack Williams said he confronted David Williams about accusing him of a murder and David Williams said he “just agreed with what the police told him.” Jack Williams said David Williams admitted that he had “pinned” a murder on Miller that David Williams committed to “get less time for his robbery charges.” The motion to remand the petition was denied.

In 2013, Miller was allowed to amend his federal habeas petition to include claims that the prosecution had failed to disclose Manigault’s statement to police in 1997 that he knew nothing about the Mullen murder—which contradicted David Williams’s claim that Manigault did know about the murder. The petition also asserted the prosecution had failed to disclose David Williams’s statement accusing Jack Williams of murder.

In 2016, Miller’s lawyers filed another amended federal habeas petition, arguing that the reports could have been used to cast doubt on David Williams’s original statement implicating Miller in the Mullen murder, particularly since David Williams had admitted that he not only falsely implicated Miller, but also falsely implicated Jack Williams.

“This evidence was favorable to Mr. Miller,” the petition said. “The evidence that David Williams gave the police false information about Jack Williams and Manigault on the same day he gave the original statement against Mr. Miller would have provided a different manner of exculpatory impeach(ment).”

In March 2018, Miller’s lawyers asked the Philadelphia County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit to review the case.

In June 2019, U.S. Magistrate Henry S. Perkin issued a 44-page decision recommending that the writ of habeas corpus be granted and Miller should receive a new trial because of the prosecution’s failure to disclose the reports.

In response to Magistrate Perkin's decision, Patricia Cummings, Conviction Integrity Unit Supervisor, filed a response saying the prosecution did not object to the writ being granted. In the response, Cummings said that Miller “has met his burden of proving his innocence. The evidence mustered against (Miller) at trial was weak, and subsequent events have eroded what faith might have existed in the accuracy of the verdict in this case.”

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody then adopted Judge Perkin’s recommendation, vacated Miller’s conviction, and ordered that he be released or retried within 180 days.

The Commonwealth did not appeal the decision; instead, it filed a motion in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in late July asking that Miller’s charges be dismissed.

On July 31, 2019, Miller’s lawyers, Nilam Sanghvi from the Pennsylvania Innocence Project and Thomas Gallagher, Hannah McPhelin and Christen Tuttle from the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP, appeared before Common Pleas Court Judge Lillian Ransom, who granted the prosecution’s motion to dismiss. That same day, Miller was released after being in custody for more than 22 years.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/5/2019
State:Pennsylvania
County:Philadelphia
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Gun Possession or Sale
Reported Crime Date:1996
Convicted:1998
Exonerated:2019
Sentence:Life without parole
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:21
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No