According to court papers, there is strong evidence that San Quentin inmate Guy Miles has been incarcerated for 16 years for crimes based upon a wrongful identification.
Years after his conviction, the Innocence Project lawyers report they uncovered the actual perpetrators of the robbery: Bernard Teamer, Jason Steward and Harold Bailey.
“Steward was never arrested for the robbery, but at my hearing he confessed before Orange County Superior Court Judge Fasal that he was the driver and that I wasn’t there.” Miles said. “But Steward can’t be charged because the statute of limitations has run out.”
Miles now awaits two major events, either of which could release him – a court decision or a review by Gov. Jerry Brown.
“I was sentenced to life for crimes I didn’t commit, so I’m the one who really needs justice,” said Miles.
On June 29, 1998, Miles was arrested for two counts of robbery, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and a gang enhancement. Despite all that, Miles said he is in good hands with his legal team.
In July 2013 Miles went back to court for the second time with a team of lawyers from the California Innocence Project. One of them was Alissa Bjerkhoel, a lawyer who has been fighting for his freedom for more than a decade.
“His case came to our office in 2003; at his original trial, his alibi was really good. He had nine alibi witnesses,” Bjerkhoel said. “The judge at that trial only allowed six to testify. He said it was cumulative. First of all, it was wrong. I don’t care how long it is. I think everyone should be able to testify.”
Bjerkhoel said the witnesses prevented from testifying were not his friends. They were people who had no interest in the case.
Miles asserts that the basics of his case came down to eyewitness testimony, and the eyewitnesses were all wrong.
“It literally wasn’t me, because when the crimes happened, I wasn’t in California. I was in Las Vegas, Nevada where I was living.” says Miles.
Miles added that Assistant District Attorney John Anderson said in his closing arguments that he had received a fair trial and rejected his alibi that he was in Las Vegas when the crime happened.
However, Miles indicated that the prosecution saw its star witness, Trina Gomez, was in doubt about her identification.
“My attorney, Frank Williams, asked her to come down from the stand to get a closer look. She walked toward me and asked me to turn around. She studied my face, body, hands and movements,” Miles said. “Then she walked back to the witness stand, turned to the jury and stated, ‘I don’t think it’s him.”
Miles believes the prosecution case bled into racial profiling because, when the prosecution discovered he had nothing to do with the crime, it still pursued the case.
“I was sentenced to life for crimes I didn’t commit, so I’m the one who really needs justice”
According to Miles, D.A. Anderson paid close attention to Steward’s testimony and told Judge Fasal that Steward did not have all the facts. When these men confessed to the crime, the prosecution changed its legal theory of the case.
“At my first trial they argued I was recruited to help a fellow gang member. This time they argued that I recruited other gang members to come forward and confess to the crime.”
That was absurd, Miles said, shaking his head. He said the prosecution did not produce a shred of new evidence that he was the perpetrator the eyewitnesses saw.
“The evidence demonstrated I didn’t even know two of the men that confessed. It also showed that the eyewitness who had originally identified me was now identifying one of the men who confessed.”
Miles said he was not surprised that the jury came back with a guilty verdict at his original trial.
“Being tried in Orange County, moreover, being that I had an all-white jury, it’s no secret that racial profiling is a huge problem in Orange County, especially for African-Americans and Hispanics. It was more probable that I would be convicted than not,” said Miles
Miles said the negative images of African-American men on television might have assisted in bolstering the mistaken identity in his case. “We’re depicted either as dope dealers, murderers or gang members, so an all-white jury can’t really relate that not all African-American men are criminals,” said Miles.
On Jan. 5, Miles said he found out from his lawyer, Bjerkhoel, that Brown did not review his clemency petition.
“He didn’t deny it. He just didn’t look at. But I’m still in the arena where he can look at it in the future. Right now, we’re still waiting for the decision from the Orange County Santa Ana Central Court,” Miles said.
Miles, 48, is one of the California 12, a group of incarcerated individuals represented by the California Innocence Project. Last year they urged Brown to grant clemency to him and to 11 other California prisoners because they said the evidence of innocence in their individual cases was overwhelming.
Lawyers Bjerkhoel, director Justin Brooks and Michael Semanchik of the California Innocence Project walked from San Diego to Sacramento in April 2013 in an effort to increase awareness of the California 12.
They walked 712 miles and got there on June 20, 2013, with blisters on their feet. They walked for 51 days and gave the clemency petitions to Brown, Miles said.
In coping with these years of incarceration, Miles said, he is just trying to keep a positive attitude and thanks the California Innocence Project for fighting for his freedom and the freedom of others. He says that for people who do not have the financial resources or voice, Stiglitz and Semanchik are warriors.
“But as they say on the TV show ‘Scandal,’ Alyssa Bjerkhoel is a gladiator. She’s my gladiator.”