On December 21, 1979, 21-year-old Jerry Miller was murdered by a passenger in his car in Hinds County, Mississippi. Miller was stabbed twice – in the throat and in the head – and died from these wounds several days later. Calvin Wilks from Jackson, Mississippi, also 21 years old, was indicted for this crime on July 7, 1980, after being identified by eyewitnesses.
On the basis of this eyewitness testimony, Wilks was convicted of murder on February 2, 1981 and sentenced to life in prison. Maintaining his innocence, Wilks began serving time at the State Penitentiary at Parchman while appealing his conviction. Also incarcerated at Parchman was a Jackson man named Jerry Donnell Graves, who was serving a fifteen-year sentence for armed robbery. In November 1983, Graves and several other inmates were discussing crimes they had been involved in, and Graves confessed that he had killed Jerry Miller. Wilks overheard this confession and immediately informed his attorney. On the basis of this confession by Graves, Wilks’ attorney petitioned for a new trial.
The district attorney investigated this matter further and, satisfied with the evidence supporting Graves’ guilt, the district attorney indicted Graves for Miller’s murder. Given this new development, the Governor of Mississippi at that time, Bill Allain, suspended Wilks’ sentence and he was released from prison. Several months later, on November 28, 1984, Graves was convicted of murdering Jerry Miller. A judge then vacated the conviction of Wilks for this crime and nolle prosequied the charges against him on December 6, 1984.
On January 14, 1992, Wilks was granted a full and complete pardon from Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus, who stated that “evidence has developed which indicates beyond a reasonable doubt that Calvin Wilks is not guilty of the crime for which he was convicted.” Wilks was awarded $179,166 from the state as compensation for his three and a half years of wrongful imprisonment.
- Meghan Barrett Cousino
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.