Victims of the State

 Polk County, FL

Juan Roberto Melendez

Sept 13, 1983 (Auburndale)

Juan Roberto Melendez was convicted of the robbery and murder of Delbert Baker, the owner of a beauty salon. He was sentenced to death. The jury foreman lied during voir dire, hiding the fact that both he and his wife knew the victim. In an interview, the foreman said he convinced the last holdout juror to convict by using a picture of Melendez and saying that “someone with that haircut had to have committed the crime.” Melendez's conviction was overturned in 2001 because the state failed to disclose that another man, Vernon James, confessed to the crime. Melendez was released in 2002 after the state decided to drop charges.  ( (FLCC)  [12/06]

Andrew Mendez - See Jacobs Field Three

Salvador Mendival - See Arcadia Innocents

Lehigh County, PA

Felito Mendoza

Feb 25, 1992 (Allentown)

Felito Mendoza was convicted of child molestation. His common law wife, Mercedes, had disciplined her child, which led to physical abuse charges against Felito. Their children were taken away. Later he was charged with sexual abuse after a case worker got a mistranslation of a Spanish word a child used and after one child tested positive for gonorrhea, even though neither Felito or Mercedes tested positive. Mendoza suspects the child was assaulted by Mercedes brother, now in a psychiatric hospital, who had formerly lived in the house with the children and had sexually assaulted Mercedes and her sisters. In addition, the children were pressured and bribed by prosecutors to testify. Defense witnesses, particularly Mercedes were pressured into not testifying.  (Justice: Denied)  [6/05]

New York County, NY

Michael Mercer

Mar 19, 1991

Michael Mercer was convicted of accosting a 17-year-old in the elevator of a Manhattan building, forcing her to the roof, then robbing and raping her. The building was at 1405 Park Avenue, near 104th Street. The victim returned to the building two months after her assault, identified Mercer as her assailant, and yelled to passers-by, “Stop him! Stop him!” A crowd caught Mercer, beat him, and held him for police. The beating gave Mercer a swollen eye and several lacerations, two of which had to be sutured. DNA tests in 2003 showed that another man, Arthur Brown, was the actual assailant and Mercer was innocent. Brown cannot be charged with the assault because of the statute of limitations. Mercer was released from prison after serving 11 years.  (IP) (AP News)  [9/05]

Los Angeles County, CA

Madge Meredith

June 30, 1947

Screen actress Madge Meredith was convicted and sentenced to prison for 5 years to life for complicity in an assault of her former manager, Nicholas D. Gianaclis, and his bodyguard, Verne V. Davis. Gianaclis and Davis reportedly were beaten, kidnapped, and robbed by a group of men as they neared Meredith's Hollywood Hills home. Meredith's off-screen and legal name was Marjorie May Massow. In March 1951, the CA Assembly Interim Committee on Crime and Corrections issued an official report concluding that Meredith had been framed. In July 1951, Gov. Earl Warren commuted her sentence to time served. Available news clips on the case suggest that Gianaclis framed Meredith to gain ownership of her home. After her release Meredith got her home back and Gianaclis, an immigrant, was denied U.S. citizenship by the Immigration Service.  (Archives) (FJDB)  [3/09]

 Orange County, CA

Thomas Merrill

Mar 14, 1989

Thomas Read Merrill was convicted of a double homicide committed during a robbery of the Newport Coin Exchange. During the robbery, the owner, William D. King, 39, was shot four times, but survived, while his wife, Renee Ratoon King, 38, and a close friend, Clyde Oates, 45, were killed. In exchange for a plea deal, Eric Jon Wick testified that Merrill participated with him in the robbery and was the actual shooter. The coin shop owner said he was robbed by two men, one white and one black. Wick was white and Merrill was black. They were both Marines and former bunkmates at the same Marine facility. Prosecutors failed to inform Merrill that the coin shop owner had emphatically excluded Merrill as the black robber. Merrill was acquitted at his third trial. He served 5 years of a life without parole sentence.  (Archives)  [4/08]

Union County, NJ 

George Merritt

July 16, 1967 (Plainfield)

In the midst of a five-day race riot, a white Plainfield patrolman, John V. Gleason, Jr., 39, shot and wounded a black youth who allegedly had attacked him with a hammer. He was surrounded by an angry mob of blacks and was beaten, stomped, and shot to death with his own service revolver. Of 12 defendants put on trial, two were convicted including George Merritt. The case against Merritt rested solely on the testimony of one witness, Donald Frazier. Frazier testified that Merritt assaulted Gleason with a meat cleaver, but the wounds on Gleason were not indicative that such a weapon was used on him, nor was this weapon found. Merritt's conviction was reversed in 1972 and 1976, but he was reconvicted after each reversal. Following Merritt's third conviction, a pretrial police interview with Frazier surfaced that was completely at odds with his trial testimony. The prosecutor had withheld this document from Merritt's defense. Because of this document, Merritt's conviction was again reversed in 1980, but this time charges against him were dropped.  (NY Times) (72) (80) (MOJ)  [7/09]

 Columbia County, FL

John Merritt

Mar 1, 1982 (Lake City)

John Edward Merritt was convicted of murdering Darrell Davis, a 48-year-old ambulance driver. The conviction was based solely on the conflicting testimony of two convicted felons, Gregory Hopkins and Gerald Skinner, and to a lesser extent Hopkins' wife Belinda (who was Skinner's sister). For their testimony both men received very generous sentence reductions for other crimes.  (JD) (Brief) (Merritt v. State)  [10/07]

Essex County, NJ 

Kelly Michaels

1984-85 (Maplewood)

Margaret Kelly Michaels was convicted in 1988 of 115 counts of sexual abuse against 20 children and sentenced to 47 years in prison. After working seven months as a teacher at a Wee Care Day Nursery, her troubles began on April 30, 1985 when when a four-year-old boy who was a student of hers said, when a nurse put a thermometer in his rectum, “That's what my teacher does to me at nap time at school.” When asked what he meant, the boy replied, “Her takes my temperature.” That one comment led to a criminal investigation and Michaels being charged with 131 counts of sexual abuse against 20 children.

During Michaels' trial, the judge questioned the children in his chambers while the jury watched on closed circuit TV. He played ball with them and held them on his lap; sometimes he whispered in their ears and asked them to whisper answers back to him. The children alleged Michaels raped and assaulted them with knives, spoons, and Lego blocks. They also contended she licked peanut butter off of the their genitals, played a piano in the nude, and made them drink her urine. All of this abuse allegedly occurred over the many months Michaels worked at Wee Care and went unnoticed by other teachers, parents, or administrators.

Michaels' conviction was overturned on appeal in 1993. The appeal judges singled out one witness's testimony as being inappropriate, because she was used to tell the jury to believe the children, when it was the jury's job to decide which witnesses to believe. The judges were also critical about the initial interviews of the children, describing them as coercive, highly suggestive, and inept. Michaels was subsequently freed on bail, and after a year and a half prosecutors dropped charges against her.  (Famous Trials) (Crime Magazine) (State v. Michaels)  [4/10]

 Los Angeles County, CA

Melvin Mikes

Mar 10, 1980 (Long Beach)

Melvin Mikes was convicted of beating to death 76-year-old Harold Hansen. Hansen was found dead on March 10, 1980 in the basement of his Long Beach fix-it shop. The pockets of his clothing had been turned inside out. The shop, which was located on the main floor of the building, had been burglarized.

Near Hansen's body, investigators found three chrome posts – a three-foot post, a six-foot post, and a “turnstile” post – all of which constituted portions of a disassembled turnstile unit. Hansen had purchased the turnstile at a hardware store's going out-of-business sale, approximately four months prior to his death. The investigators determined that the assailant used the three-foot post to murder Hansen.

The government's case against Mikes rested exclusively upon the fact that his fingerprints were among those found on the posts that lay adjacent to the victim's body. Mikes's counsel failed to present alibi witnesses. Mikes' conviction was vacated due to insufficient evidence. His release was delayed four months waiting for the DA's unsuccessful appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mikes served 7 years of a 25 years to life sentence.  (Archives)  [4/08]

 Saskatchewan, Canada

David Milgaard

Jan 31, 1969 (Saskatoon)

David Milgaard was convicted of the rape and stabbing murder of Gail Miller, a Saskatoon nursing aide. In 1992, the Canadian Supreme Court freed Milgaard after he spent 23 years in prison. Five years later, DNA tests of physical evidence confirmed Milgaard's innocence. In 1999, the true killer, Larry Fisher, was convicted of Miller's murder. In the same year, Milgaard was awarded $10 million in compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.  (CM) (IB) (Mention)  [5/05]

Maricopa County, AZ

Debra Milke

Dec 2, 1989 (Tempe)

Debra Jean Milke was convicted of the 1989 murder of her 4-year-old son.  (American Justice) (JD#1) (JD#2) (  [5/05]

 Dallas County, TX

Billy Wayne Miller

Sept 26, 1983

Billy Wayne Miller was convicted of rape based on the victim's identification of his house and car. In 2006, DNA tests exonerated Miller of the crime.  (IP)  [12/06]

Earnest Lee Miller - See Jent & Miller

Gina Miller - See Bakersfield Seven

Salt Lake County, UT 

Henry Miller

Dec 8, 2000 (Salt Lake City)

Henry Miller was convicted of stealing a woman's purse at knifepoint in a Salt Lake City convenience store parking lot. The purse had $50 in it. Miller then allegedly tried to steal the woman's car, but unable to put the car in reverse, got out and fled. At the time, however, Miller lived 1400 miles away in Louisiana. He had a stroke on Nov. 25, 2000, 14 days before the robbery and took off work for three weeks while he recovered. Hospital and employment records confirmed the stroke and his return to work in Louisiana.

Miller had lived in Salt Lake City from 1989 to 1999. He was again in Utah in Feb. 2003, when police stopped him a block away from a restaurant robbery. He was charged in the restaurant robbery and in the 2000 parking lot robbery. However, police dropped charges on the restaurant robbery due to insufficient evidence. The parking lot victim testified she was 100 percent sure that Miller was the thief who snatched her purse. But Miller, then 47, was in his mid-forties at the time of the crime and the victim had told police the robber was between 18 to 21 years old.

After gathering new evidence, including testimony by a home health care nurse that Miller was in Louisiana the day before the robbery, Miller's conviction was overturned. Prosecutors dropped charges a week before a scheduled retrial in July 2007. Miller had served more than 4 years in prison for the alleged theft of $50.  (Salt Lake Tribune)  [3/08]

Randolph County, IL 

Jerome Miller

May 11, 1967

Joseph Gagnepain, 55, a keeper of the Mississippi River tollbooth at Chester, Illinois, was murdered. $11 in bills and $40 in change was taken from him. Two days later, Jerome Miller was arrested for the crime after police found a box of change and a revolver in his car, which he parked near the toll both while working in St. Louis, Missouri. Miller told his lawyer, Robert H. Rice, that he was innocent of the crime. Nevertheless Rice informed him that he has no chance of being found not guilty and that the best outcome he can hope for is to avoid receiving the death penalty. Rice added that the state's attorney will agree to that outcome if Miller agreed to plead guilty to the crime. Miller then pleaded guilty to the crime after Rice repeated in open court what he told Miller. In 1970, Miller's conviction was overturned because an appeals court felt that Miller did not fully comprehend the consequences of his guilty plea. Miller was then tried with a change of venue in Washington County. The Washington County jury acquitted him.  (CWC)

 Cook County, IL

Jerry Miller

Sept 16, 1981

Jerry Miller was convicted of raping a 44-year-old woman. Miller had been stopped by a police officer a few days before the assault for allegedly “looking” into parked cars. After a composite sketch of the rapist was drawn using two eyewitnesses, the sketch was circulated and the officer who stopped Miller thought the sketch resembled him. Miller was brought in for a lineup and the witnesses identified him. At trial, the judge said the evidence against Miller was “overwhelming.” Miller was released from prison in 2006. DNA tests exonerated him in 2007 and identified the actual perpetrator. According to the Innocence Project, Miller is the 200th American exonerated by DNA testing.  (Chicago Tribune) (IP)  [6/07]

Philadelphia County, PA

John Miller

Oct 8, 1996

On October 8, 1996, Anthony G. Mullen was murdered in a parking lot near Amtrak 30th Street Station where he worked as an attendant. Police had no witnesses, no leads, no idea who committed the crime. Not until February 1997, that is, when David Williams was arrested on suspicion of having committed a string of armed robberies. Williams asked to speak with a homicide detective he knew, saying that he had information about the Mullen murder and who committed it. Williams told police that John Miller, who had no prior criminal history, had confessed to him to having killed Mullen.  Williams then provided detectives with convincing details about the crime. Based on the information provided by Williams, detectives interviewed 17-year-old Mike Arnold, who corroborated certain parts of Williams’ story by saying that he saw Mr. Miller pick up a gun on the street days before the murder.

On June 24, 1997, John Miller was arrested for the parking lot murder of Anthony Mullen. Called by the Commonwealth to testify at the preliminary hearing and trial, Williams recanted his statement to police, saying that Miller had never, in fact, confessed to him. Nonetheless, police were allowed to read into evidence Williams’ statement. That out of court statement and Arnold’s testimony—with no corroborating physical evidence of guilt—was all of the evidence that convicted John Miller of second degree murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on December 15, 1998.

Both witnesses have since come forward to say that their testimony at trial was false. Not surprisingly, David Williams now admits that he knew about the murder because he is the one who committed it. Moreover, after speaking with Pennsylvania Innocence Project investigators, Mike Arnold signed an affidavit stating that he lied when he testified against Miller and that his story about the gun was false. On July 18, 2011, Williams gave staff members from The Pennsylvania Innocence Project a detailed statement in which he confessed that he tried to rob Mullen and then shot him, although not intentionally. In his statement, Williams acknowledged that, by confessing to killing Mullen, he could be subjecting himself to the death penalty or life imprisonment, but he was making the statement nevertheless because he was consumed with guilt for falsely implicating Miller in this crime. – Quoted from PA Innocence Project  (Innocence Institute)

Fulton County, IL 

Lloyd Eldon Miller, Jr.

Nov 26, 1955 (Canton)

Lloyd Eldon Miller, Jr. was convicted of the murder of 8-year-old Janice Elizabeth May. May had been raped and severely beaten. She died in a hospital less than two hours after she was found. Hours after the murder, Miller, a Canton cab driver, illegally took his cab and abandoned it outside of town. He then continued to travel by bus. Putting two and two together, police concluded that Miller was fleeing after assaulting the girl. Miller, however, said he left town because his ex-wife was threatening to put him in jail for failure to pay child support.

After being held incommunicado for 52 hours and grilled relentlessly by relays of policemen, Miller signed a police written confession. He had been threatened with the death penalty if he refused to sign it, but received the death penalty anyway. The confession was inconsistent with known facts of the crime. In the confession, Miller admitted that a pair of blood stained jockey shorts was his. They were found a mile from the scene of the crime and were alleged to be stained with the victim's blood.

After Miller's trial, his landlady, who had not testified, told his appellate lawyers that Miller had been asleep at home when the crime occurred. In addition, it turned out that the jockey shorts were too small for Miller, who regularly wore boxer shorts. The prosecutor, Blaine Ramsey, had led the jury to believe that the stain on the jockey shorts was blood, but the stain turned out to be paint, which the prosecutor knew because the state crime laboratory had so reported. After Miller won a federal writ of habeas corpus, the prosecution dropped all charges in 1971. A book was written about the case entitled Scapegoat Justice by Willard J. Lassers.  (CWC) (Until You Are Dead...) (Time)  [1/09]

 Suffolk County, MA

Neil Miller

Aug 24, 1989

Neil Miller was convicted of raping an Emerson College student. Miller had been convicted of a non-sexual crime, and the victim picked his photo out of a mug book. Miller claimed that he had never seen the victim before nor been in her apartment. In 1997, he was denied parole because he proclaimed his innocence and refused to enter treatment for sexual deviance. DNA tests exonerated him in 2000. Miller subsequently sued the police and the City of Boston, claiming damages for a conspiracy to convict him with fabricated evidence and perjured testimony. In 2006, Miller was awarded $3.2 million.  (CIPM) (IP) (Frontline) (JD)  [10/05]

Oklahoma County, OK

Robert Miller


Robert Lee Miller, Jr. tried to help police solve two rape-murder cases by playing psychic and reporting on what he saw through the killer's eyes during a 8 1/2 hour taped interview. The victims were Anne Laura Fowler, 83, and Zelma Cutler, 92. Miller's statement had 112 inconsistencies, according to his lawyers; he had earlier told investigators that he was the Lone Ranger and an Indian warrior and that his family had visionary powers. Police used the tape as a confession and Miller was convicted. The case also involved complicated forensics. Miller was sentenced to death for 2 murders, 679 years for 2 rapes, 40 years for 2 burglaries, and 10 years for an attempted burglary. Miller only served 9 years before DNA tests exonerated him.  (IP) (NY Times)  [5/05]

Genesee County, MI 

Sharee Miller

Nov 9, 1999 (Flint)

While married to a different man, Sharee Miller had an online romance with an ex-police detective, Jerry Cassaday, from Reno, Nevada, whom she met on the Internet. Sharee had told him numerous lies such as being wealthy. She had also traveled to Reno five times and had a physical affair. In her emails, she said she was married to a terminally ill husband, Jeff, who would die soon and that they could be together soon. Then she told him her husband died, but she had to marry his brother, Bruce, because of family pressure. She twice told Jerry she was pregnant with his child.
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Stephen Miller - See Cardiff Three

Lucas County, OH

Tony Miller

Dec 14, 1983 (Toledo)

Morgan A. “Tony” Miller was convicted of armed robbery and assault following the robbery of an Arby's restaurant at 1455 Secor Road in Toledo, during which an off-duty police officer named James Snead was shot. Miller had been in the restaurant minutes before the robbery with two friends and even spoke to an employee who knew him and was leaving work. Although the robber wore a stocking mask, Miller was charged with the crime after three witnesses identified him as the robber. One of the witnesses said he got a look at the robber before he put on his mask. Another claimed that she saw the robber's face when he briefly lifted up his mask.
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 Cook County, IL

Milwaukee Ave. Innocents

Nov 27, 1981

Rogelio Arroyo, Isauro Sanchez, Ignacio Varela, and Joaquin Varela were four members of the Varela family who were convicted of the shooting deaths of four members of the Sanchez family and the non-fatal shootings of two others in what became known as the Milwaukee Avenue Massacre. The shootings occurred at 2121 N. Milwaukee Ave. The families, both with roots in Guerrero, Mexico, had been engaged in a feud for six years. In 1990, the real killer, Gilberto Varela confessed to the crime in a collect call from Mexico. He and three others involved in the crime had fled to Mexico immediately after the killings. Illinois Governor Thompson commuted the convicted men's life sentences in 1991, but only after they agreed not to sue for their wrongful arrest and imprisonment.  (CWC) (ISI)  [7/05]

Andre Minnitt - See El Grande Innocents

Clark County, NV 

Roberto Miranda

Aug 8, 1981 (Las Vegas)

Roberto Hernandez Miranda was convicted of murdering Manuel Rodriguez Torres and sentenced to death. A witness, Fernando Cabrera, claimed he drove with Miranda to Torres' house and waited outside. Cabrera had motive to frame Miranda because Miranda was having an affair with his girlfriend. An incompetent lawyer, Thomas Rigsby, represented Miranda, and interviewed just three of the forty witnesses relevant to the defense. Rigsby did not manage to serve a subpoena on a single witness. Rigsby never brought out the fact that the accuser had motive to frame Miranda or to have witnesses testify who would verify his innocence. In overturning the conviction, Miranda's appeals judge wrote, “The lack of pretrial preparation by trial counsel...cannot be justified.” The prosecution subsequently dropped all charges and Miranda was later awarded $5 million in compensation for 13 years on Nevada's death row. (PC) (85) (02) (03) [7/05]

 Cook County, IL

Miranda Five

July 17, 1997

Omar Aguirre, Robert Gayol, Luis Ortiz, Duarte Santos, and Ronnie Gamboa were charged with the murder of 56-year-old furniture dealer, Sindulfo Miranda. Miranda was also tortured before he died with scissors and a broomstick. The first four were convicted because of eyewitness perjury and a coerced confession. Gamboa was acquitted. In 2002, a federal investigation later revealed that the crime was one of a series of crimes committed by the Carmen Brothers Crew street gang. The four were exonerated of the crime. In a 2006, three of the men were awarded $6.74 million.  (CWC) (JD)  [9/06]

Jesse Misskelley, Jr. - See West Memphis Three

Cole County, MO 

Missouri State Massacre

Sept 22, 1954

In response to a prison riot at Missouri State Penitentiary, authorities shot four inmates to death and wounded another 30. Most were apparently inmates who had fled the riot. None of the inmates were armed.  (Crime Magazine)  [9/05]

Cole County, MO 

Missouri State Seven

Sept 22, 1954

During a prison riot at Missouri State Penitentiary, the prison's most notorious stool pigeon, Walter Lee Donnell, was murdered by one or more inmates. Donnell had testified against many members of a St. Louis armed robbery clique including Irv Thomas. These obvious suspects were not even questioned about Donnell's death. Instead, the leaders of the riot were tortured into confessing to the murder. When a smaller riot occurred in October, its leader was also tortured into confessing. The prison authorities wanted to send a message: “Cause trouble and you will be forced to confess too.” All seven were convicted of the murder, but a look at the evidence gives little reason to believe the confessions. The real killer, Irv Thomas, had his sister release his confession to the killing upon his death in 1981.  (Crime Magazine)  [9/05]

Oklahoma County, OK

Alfred Mitchell

Jan 7, 1991

Alfred Brian Mitchell was convicted of raping and murdering 21-year-old Elaine Marie Scott at the Pilot Community Recreation Center in west Oklahoma City. The conviction was due to testimony of lab technician Joyce Gilchrist, a woman who has helped to falsely convict other defendants. Federal Judge Ralph Thompson overturned Mitchell's conviction and ruled that Gilchrist's testimony about hair and fluid evidence “was terribly misleading, if not false.”  (Appeals)  [10/05]

 Smith County, TX

Andrew Lee Mitchell

Dec 26, 1979

Andrew Lee Mitchell was convicted of murdering Keith Wills, a clerk at a fireworks stand near Troup, Texas. Mitchell was sentenced to death and spent 13 years on death row. He was exonerated in 1993 after exculpatory evidence surfaced showing the victim had been alive hours after Mitchell had allegedly killed him. The sheriff's department had suppressed this evidence.  [1/07]

Greene County, AR

Denver Mitchell

Aug 18, 1990 (Paragould)

Denver Wayne Mitchell, Jr. was convicted of murder for fending off a sexual solicitation. In Aug. 1990, while working in Amarillo, TX, Mitchell received a letter from his father asking him to come home to West Frankfort, IL. On Aug. 17, Mitchell hitched a ride near Amarillo in a truck driven by a 74-year-old man named Willard. The two made it to Paragould, AR where they stopped for the night. Willard told Mitchell he could spend the night in the truck and that he, Willard, would take him to Highway 55 in the morning. The two also stopped at a bar, drank alcohol, and purchased some beer to go. Willard then drove the truck to an area where they could camp out.
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 Suffolk County, MA

Marvin Mitchell

Sept 22, 1988

Marvin Mitchell was convicted of abducting an 11-year-old girl from a Dorchester bus stop and raping her. The victim initially described her assailant as clean-shaven and cross-eyed, but Mitchell was neither. DNA tests exonerated Mitchell in 1997.  (CIPM) (IP)  [10/05]

Lexington County, SC

Perry Mitchell

Dec 29, 1982 (Lexington)

Perry Mitchell was convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl at knifepoint. DNA tests exonerated him in 1998.  (IP)  [10/05]