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Christopher Miller

Other Ohio DNA Exonerations
On the night of Saturday, April 28, 2001, a 25-year-old woman (L.B.) was attacked as she returned to her apartment in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Two men, one armed with a chrome pistol, forced her inside and ordered her to take off her jeans and underwear. Her shirt was pulled over her head, and her face was covered with towel. Both men then raped her.

The men left with the woman’s purse, which contained $25, along with her cell phone, cell phone car charger, car and apartment keys, date book, wedding ring, and wallet. They also took a pair of handcuffs belonging to the woman’s roommate, a plug-in cell phone charger, and a wall-mounted phone. As they left, one of the men kicked the woman in the head and told her not to call police.

Police focused their investigation on the cell phone after it was used to call the emergency contact number listed in L.B.’s date book at 11:35 p.m. that night. Police called the cell phone, but no one answered.

No further calls were made until shortly after 7 a.m. when the emergency number was dialed again. A few minutes later, the phone’s voice mail was accessed and then a number that was stored in the phone was called. Just before 8 a.m., the phone began a period of constant use that included multiple calls to the same number. Police identified the owner of that phone as the girlfriend of 24-year-old Christopher Miller.

Cleveland Heights detectives interviewed Miller who admitted that early that morning he paid $5 to purchase the phone from a “drug fiend” who needed money to buy drugs. When the battery got low, he got a charger from a friend who owned the same model, Miller said.

Miller admitted that he suspected the phone was stolen. He could not give the name of the person who sold him the phone. He said that he threw it away when he learned police were looking for it. He denied any involvement in the attack on L.B.

When Miller initially provided an alibi for Friday instead of Saturday, police believed he was trying to deceive them. In addition, his girlfriend initially said she saw Miller with the phone on Saturday morning, although the crime occurred Saturday night. Ultimately, she said that Miller was home with her and asleep when the crime occurred.

During this time, police prepared a photographic lineup and L.B. identified Miller as the gunman. Based on her identification and Miller’s admissions about the cell phone, Miller was arrested on April 30, 2001. He was charged with rape, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, intimidation, and felonious assault.

DNA tests were performed on the rape kit and a single male DNA profile was identified. However, it was not Miller’s DNA. At first, authorities believed that Miller may have had a low sperm count since L.B. said both men ejaculated, but tests showed that Miller did not have a low sperm count.

Police searched Miller’s home, but found nothing linking him to the crime. Miller was excluded as the source of a pubic hair recovered from the rape kit. Police found cat hair on his clothes when he was arrested. Analysts compared cat hairs from Miller’s clothing to hairs from L.B.’s cat, but could not establish a link. Miller’s clothing was examined for L.B.’s DNA, but none was found.

No further DNA testing was performed on any other evidence, including the towel put over L.B.’s face or the pubic hair.

Prior to trial, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office offered Miller a deal—plead guilty to lesser charges and name his accomplice and the prosecution would support a sentence of seven years in prison. Miller rejected the offer and asked to take a polygraph examination. That request was denied.

Miller went to trial in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in January 2002.

L.B. testified and identified Miller as one of her attackers. She identified the black jean jacket Miller was wearing when arrested as the jacket he was wearing on the night of the crime. She also said the gunman was wearing a shirt with semi-circular writing, which she said “looks to be like” the Toronto Raptors basketball team jersey that Miller was wearing when arrested. She also said the phone charger he had was hers.

A detective testified that L.B. said the gunman was wearing a black jacket and a jersey-like V-neck shirt with red and blue writing—which was precisely what Miller was wearing when arrested.

The defense called Dwayne Collins, who testified that he found the cell phone in a bush in the early morning hours of April 29, 2001—only a few hours after L.B. was raped and robbed. Collins told the jury he “pushed a button” to make sure the phone was still working. He said a few minutes later he sold it for drugs. He identified Miller as the man he sold it to, but admitted he did not know Miller’s name. Collins denied knowing the phone had any connection to a crime.

Miller’s girlfriend testified that Miller was in bed when she returned to their home around 11 p.m. on the night of the crime.

The prosecution argued that the DNA test results excluding Miller meant that L.B. must have been mistaken about both attackers ejaculating. The prosecution contended that L.B.’s identification of Miller and her accurate description of the gunman’s clothing was evidence that Miller was involved in the crime.

The defense argued that the calls on the stolen cell phone on Sunday morning—the redial of a last outgoing call, a call to a stored contact, and two calls to voicemail—were consistent with someone getting the phone and testing it for the first time to see if it worked, not someone who had made a call right after the crime and already knew the phone worked.

On January 30, 2002, after three days of deliberation, the jury convicted Miller of all charges. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

In August 2004, the DNA profile from the rape kit was matched in the FBI DNA database to Richard Stadmire. Stadmire had been convicted in March 2002 of committing a similar crime in May 2001 about five miles away from the attack on L.B. Stadmire had been sentenced to 25½ years in prison for aggravated robbery, kidnapping, gross sexual imposition, and misuse of a credit card. His accomplice in that crime, Charles Boyd, had pled guilty and testified against Stadmire for a reduced sentence.

A detective interviewed Boyd and Stadmire in prison. Stadmire denied involvement in the attack on L.B., but Boyd, after an initial denial, said he recognized Miller as being in the same prison. Boyd admitted he was involved in the attack on L.B., but said he remained outside as a lookout while Miller and Stadmire went inside to rape and rob L.B.

Boyd said he only met Miller a few hours before the attack on L.B. Afterward, he said, Miller went his own way while Boyd and Stadmire went to a club to split the robbery proceeds.

Boyd and Stadmire were charged with the rape and robbery of L.B. In June 2006, Stadmire went to trial in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Boyd, who had agreed to plead guilty, testified that he acted as the lookout while Stadmire and Miller went inside and attacked L.B.

L.B. testified and said she only saw two people involved in the attack. She was unable to identify Stadmire or Boyd.

Cleveland Heights detective Mike Schmitt testified for the first time that L.B. had originally told him that three people were involved.

“She indicated to me on – twice after the incident that there was a third male, possibly due to her sense of hearing the movement of the individuals about her, moving behind her head,” Schmitt testified. He admitted that he had never mentioned a third person in any of his notes or reports.

Cross-examined about L.B.’s testimony that only two men were involved, Schmitt said, “It’s not her responsibility to remember the facts of the case.”

Miller was called as a defense witness. He testified that he had never met Stadmire and was not involved in the crime. He said he first met Boyd in prison.

On June 12, 2006, Stadmire was convicted and sentenced to 43 years in prison. Boyd pled guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to five years in prison.

In 2007, Miller sought to obtain a new trial on the ground that Stadmire’s DNA was identified in the rape kit, but the motion was denied.

In March 2017, Brian Howe, an attorney with the Ohio Innocence Project, filed a motion seeking DNA testing of the evidence in Miller’s case, arguing that DNA testing had become more sensitive since the original testing in 2001.

The prosecution did not oppose the request. Several dozen pieces of evidence were sent to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation for DNA testing, including vaginal swabs from the rape kit and sections of L.B.’s jacket that had tested positive for the presence of semen in 2001, but were not submitted for DNA testing.

In August 2017, the DNA tests excluded Miller and identified the DNA profiles of Stadmire and Boyd.

Meanwhile, Howe had obtained reports from the Cleveland Heights police department that had not been disclosed to Miller’s trial defense attorney. The reports showed that L.B.’s initial description did not mention a black jacket, but a green jacket. She said the gunman was wearing a white t-shirt with a black circle. Nothing in L.B.’s initial description resembled the Toronto Raptors jersey that Miller was wearing when arrested and that L.B. described at Miller’s trial.

In June 2018, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office Conviction Integrity Unit and Howe filed joint motions to vacate Miller’s convictions. On June 21, his convictions were vacated, the charges were dismissed, and he was released.

In August 2021, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Kelly Ann Gallagher declared Miller a wrongfully convicted person, entitling him to seek compensation from the state of Ohio. He was subsequently awarded $1.3 million in compensation. In June 2020, Miller filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Cleveland Heights. He settled the case in February 2023 for $4 million.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 6/29/2018
Last Updated: 3/4/2023
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Assault, Kidnapping, Other Violent Felony, Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:2001
Sentence:40 years
Age at the date of reported crime:24
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes