Richard Miles cried Wednesday as a state district judge formally declared him innocent of a 1995 murder for which he spent 14 years in prison.
With a declaration of innocence, the 36-year-old Miles will be fully cleared of the crime and can apply for state compensation for wrongfully imprisoned inmates. Miles' mother, several inmates who've also been exonerated and other supporters cheered inside the courtroom as Judge Andy Chatham called him a free man.
"Now, the world knows that I'm innocent," Miles told reporters beforehand. "I've always known that I was innocent."
Miles was sentenced to 40 years in prison after being convicted of the murder of Deandre S. Williams and the attempted murder of another man.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last week determined that "actual innocence" existed in Miles' case -- a rare declaration for someone exonerated without the help of DNA evidence. Miles was released after an advocacy group found evidence implicating another man in the murder hadn't been turned over to Miles' attorneys before trial.
One undisclosed police report included information of a call made by someone who claimed to know Williams' actual killer. The call occurred about 3 months before Miles' trial. The other report was about an altercation between the victims and a third person just before the shootings.
Released on bond in 2009, Miles said he has struggled to find work because he was labeled an ex-offender.
He now plans to apply for compensation under the state's Tim Cole Act, which pays freed inmates $80,000 for each year of wrongful incarceration. And he hopes to start a nonprofit group, Miles of Freedom, which would build transitional housing for ex-inmates.
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, whose office's conviction integrity unit has helped to free more than 20 wrongfully convicted inmates, attended the hearing. Watkins thanked Miles for continuing to fight for his freedom after being convicted, calling him "just another example of the problems we've had and the future that we do have."
As other exonerated ex-inmates watched, Watkins also took on the state's death penalty. Without calling for a moratorium on executions, Watkins questioned whether Texas had executed an innocent person.
"When we have all these men that have been exonerated for crimes they didn't commit, as to whether or not we have executed someone in this state that didn't commit the crime, I think that's a fair question," Watkins said. "I think anyone that does not -- that sits in a [district attorney's] seat -- have doubts, they shouldn't be DAs."
"Until we can get it right, maybe we need to explore how we can get it right," he said.
(source for both Associated Press)