cause of wrongful conviction:
date Centurion began work:
On October 12, 2009, Richard Miles walked free into the arms of his awaiting mother after 15 years of false imprisonment for a 1994 Dallas, TX murder that he had nothing to do with. Joining with CM, the Dallas DA’s office convinced a Dallas judge to free Richard after it was discovered by CM’s investigation that another man had confessed to the crime and that the Dallas Police had not supplied this evidence to the defense. Upon Richard Miles’ release, the sole incriminating trial eyewitness against Richard admitted to the DA that his eyewitness identification of Richard was not only false, but was suborned by the trial prosecutor.
Richard received compensation under the Texas Wrongful Conviction Compensation statute. He used this money to buy a home for his mother and for himself, and then he started an organization called Miles of Freedom to help Dallas parolees get back on their feet. He works with them on all aspects of their new life, including finding work. Richard is married and has a daughter. He is one of Centurion’s bright stars.
Court of Criminal Appeals Officially Exonerates Man in Dallas Murder Case
By Jennifer Emily
The Dallas Morning News
February 15, 2012
Wait Continues For Dallas County Man Who Hopes to Be Exonerated
By Jennifer Emily
The Dallas Morning News
February 6, 2011
‘He’s Reborn Now’ Mother Says As Son Freed After 14 Years Behind Bars
By Jennifer Emily
The Dallas Morning News
October 13, 2009
the full story…
Moments before the shooting occurred, two young men were sitting in their parked car on the edge of the Texaco station near Bachman Lake, TX at 2:50 a.m. on Monday, May 16, 1994 talking to friends when suddenly a man appeared out of nowhere and shot both men multiple times with a 9 millimeter gun by. Standing by the driver’s door, the gunman shot them through the open T-top of their Nissan 300ZX. One victim, a 20-year old, was fatally shot as he sat in the passenger seat. Sitting in the car with this victim was his 22-year old friend, who was also shot multiple times while sitting in the driver’s seat. He survived the shooting.
The case against Richard Miles hinged on the State’s single incriminating key eyewitness to the crime. This eyewitness testified that while standing in line to buy gas at the Texaco Station, he heard gun shots. He turned and saw “a side view” of the fleeing lone shooter as he ran by him about 30 feet away. He then saw the shooter jump into the back seat of a waiting white Cadillac which sped away.
In addition to this key eyewitness, at least six other people witnessed the crime. None of the six were able to identify Mr. Miles’ photo as the shooter when shown the photo array within hours of the crime. Only the key eyewitness selected Mr. Miles’ photo during the photo line up and therefore, Mr. Miles was charged with this crime based solely on the photo identification of him by this eyewitness.
No motive for the shooting has ever been ascribed to the defendant, Richard Miles. Mr. Miles had no association or past encounters whatsoever with either victim. It is curious to note that a sawed off shotgun that was in the front seat of the victim’s car.
The Arrest of Richard Miles
Richard Miles was arrested at 3:15 a.m., a mere 25 minutes after the crime. Here is how that happened:
Upon seeing the shooter jump in the white Cadillac’s back seat, the State’s incriminating key eyewitness got in his car and followed the getaway car. Less than two miles from the crime scene, the Cadillac stopped briefly. The shooter exited the car and started walking north while the getaway car also continued north and out of the eyewitness’ sight.
The eyewitness made a U-turn and drove past the shooter who was still walking in a northerly direction. Returning to the Texaco station, he reported to police what he had just done and seen. An APB was broadcast for a African American male suspect wearing a white tank top and dark shorts. The broadcast was made at 3:08 a.m., seven minutes prior to the Richard Miles’ 3:15 a.m. arrest.
The Miles’ Alibi
Richard Miles’ alibi witness, Ernest Clark, testified that he gave Mr. Miles a ride home, dropping Mr. Miles off close to 3:00 a.m. in the same area where the shooter had exited the white Cadillac. Richard Miles was walking home to where he was living with another friend when he was arrested by cruising patrol car officers responding to the APB. Two to three minutes prior to his arrest, he had used a public telephone to make a prearranged phone call to his roommate wherein he asked his housemate to unlock the front door since he was only one block from the house.
The roommate testified at trial that he received the phone call three minutes prior to the arrival of the overhead police helicopter which provoked his dog to start barking. The helicopter was on scene at 3:15 a.m. and assisted in the 3:15 a.m. arrest of Miles.
Richard Miles was arrested immediately after he had completed the phone call to his housemate and was beginning the short walk to his home. The spot where he was arrested was only a six minute walk from where the shooter was last seen by Mr. Thurmond exiting the getaway car, some 20 minutes prior.
Clothing Worn by the Shooter
Including the key eyewitness, seven known witnesses saw the gunman. On the night of the crime, all seven told the police that the shooter was wearing dark shorts.
Two of these witnesses, which included the incriminating key eyewitness, told police that the killer wore a white tank top. Three others said it was a white t-shirt. Another said it was a blue t-shirt. Yet another recalled that the shooter wore a striped shirt.
Mr. Miles was arrested because he was wearing a white tank top and was walking in the vicinity where the shooter was last reported walking. However, Richard Miles was not wearing shorts. He was wearing full length blue Dickie trousers. The incriminating eyewitness testified that when he passed the walking shooter (after he had exited the getaway car) he was still wearing the dark shorts.
Under cross examination lead detective William Hooker was asked if he had begun to think that he had been brought the wrong man because every witness said the shooter wore short pants, and he’d been presented with a suspect wearing full length pants. He replied,“Well, that crossed my mind. Yes it did.”
More on the Arrest and Identification of Richard Miles
The arresting patrol officers immediately brought the handcuffed suspect Miles in their patrol car to the Texaco station. In his affidavit to police the night of the crime and in courtroom testimony, the key eyewitness stated that he saw suspect Miles taken out of the patrol car at the rear of the Texaco station; and that it was then that he told police, “that’s the guy right there”. The eyewitness further stated that he observed Mr. Miles being put back into the patrol car.
When Richard Miles was removed in handcuffs from the patrol car at the Texaco station crime scene, a crime scene investigator did a hand washing for gunshot residue analysis. This was done outside in an open area behind the Texaco station. Once completed, Mr. Miles was placed back in the patrol car by his arresting officers and transported to the police station. Within an hour or so of the crime, he was photographed and a photo array was shown to the crime scene witnesses, including the incriminating key eyewitness. Only the key eyewitness identified Richard Miles as the shooter. After Mr. Miles was identified, he was arrested solely on that basis.
Witnesses’ Descriptions of the Shooter
Incredibly, none of the witnesses, including the key eyewitness, whose affidavits were taken at police station immediately after the crime, were asked to give a physical description of the shooter other than his clothing.
The height and build was provided by only one witness, and that occurred at trial. This witness testified for the defense. He described the shooter as between 6’2” and 6’4” tall, with a slim build. This witness did not know Richard Miles. The May 16, 1994 booking sheet of Richard Miles at the Dallas County Jail described him as 5’9” and 190 lbs.
Three of the witnesses commented on the handedness of the shooter; all three, which included the key eyewitness, said the shooter held the weapon in his right hand. Defendant, Richard Miles, is left handed.
Four African American witnesses commented on the skin complexion of the African American shooter compared to the complexion of Richard Miles, stating at trial that the shooter was clearly darker than Mr. Miles. Two of these four witnesses were the surviving victim, and the State’s incriminating key eyewitness, and the third was the witness who had offered the height and build of the shooter.
Very little investigation was conducted subsequent to the Miles arrest. Detective Hooker interviewed the alibi witnesses the week of the crime. Det. Hooker noted in his narrative report that Ernest Clark confirmed that he had dropped off Richard Miles about 3:00 a.m. Det. Hooker noted in his investigative notes that Clark’s “story sure seemed rehearsed, exactly as Miles had told it to me”.
Detective Hooker interviewed the surviving victim at the hospital. He also interviewed a man who had been threatened with a shotgun by Texaco victims four days before the shooting occurred. With these interviews he concluded his investigation within a week of the crime.
Victims Confronted by Occupants of a White Cadillac
During Detective Hooker’s interview at the hospital with the surviving victim, he learned of an additional altercation. The Texaco victims had been confronted by “a car load of black males in a white Cadillac” at the mall at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, 1994 —- just 15 hours before the 2:50 a.m. May 16th Texaco shooting. The occupants of the Cadillac tried to block the Texaco victims in a parking spot at the mall, and at least one of the people in the white Cadillac had a pistol.
This incident could be the answer to the identity of the Texaco shooter and his cohort(s) because the Texaco shooter jumped into the backseat of a white Cadillac which sped away from the crime scene.
Gun Shot Residue Test Results
At trial the State presented the results of the GSR test on Richard Miles’ hands the night of the crime. Trace evidence analyst Vicki Hall of the Southwest Institute of Forensic Science testified that she found a very low level of antimony and barium on Mr. Miles’ right palm, but none on the back of his right hand. Under cross examination Ms. Hall admitted to finding only .04 parts per million for antimony which is the absolute lowest level set by the FBI for a presumption of firearm handling. The lowest threshold level by the FBI on barium is .40 parts per million. Ms. Hall found .42 parts per million on Mr. Miles’ right palm. Ms. Hall conceded that barium is as “common as dirt” and that antimony is found in matches. Richard Miles was a smoker and in fact, had stopped at a 7-11 for cigarettes and had smoked a cigarette shortly before Mr. Clark dropped him off.
Vicki Hall testified that she found zero level of antimony and .18 parts per million of barium on Richard Miles’ left hand.
It is also important to point out that the two victims were shot multiple times. According to the autopsy report, the deceased victim had four entry wounds. The surviving victim testified that he was shot seven times. For such a high number of shots to produce such a low level and bare minimum threshold of antimony and barium substantially calls into question the evidentiary value of the State’s gunshot residue testimony.
Additionally, if Richard Miles was the shooter and shot a 9 millimeter automatic pistol multiple times with his right hand (even though he is left handed), one would expect to find at least some level of antimony and barium on the top of his right hand since the cloud of gas from firing exits the ejection port near the breech which is only 1 to 1 ½ inches from the top of the hand. Ms. Hall did not contest this under cross examination.
Exculpatory Evidence Found
In 2009, CM presented the Dallas DA with a Dallas police report that we had received by submitting a public records request to the Dallas Police Department (DPD). Among the documents CM acquired was a DPD memo that had never been revealed before. This document chronicled a telephone call that was received by a Dallas homicide investigator one year after the shooting and four months before Richard Miles’ trial.
In the memo, a former close-personal friend of a Dallas drug dealer told the police that the drug dealer had confessed to her that he had shot two black males at a Texaco station a year before and that the police had arrested the wrong man. The drug dealer also told her that he had used a 9 millimeter gun. No one besides the police and the killer knew that a 9 millimeter gun had been the weapon used in this shooting.
The Dallas Homicide Department never turned over this information to the D.A., nor did they do any further investigation of the matter. Mr. Miles’ trial attorney has attested that he never saw this document or knew of its existence until CM showed it to him.
The top deputy of the Dallas D.A.’s office acknowledged to CM that this was a significant violation of the rules of discovery that entitles the defense to such exculpatory evidence prior to trial. After examining the entire record of the Miles conviction, the Dallas DA’s office joined with CM and attorney Cheryl Wattley (retained by CM) in asking a Dallas County judge to free Mr. Miles based on prosecutorial misconduct and recommend to the higher Texas court that Mr. Miles’ conviction be tossed out. At the same time the Dallas DA told the court that he will not retry Richard Miles because he believes him to be an innocent man.
Richard Miles was freed on October 12, 2009. Meanwhile the DA’s office is currently reinvestigating the crime in a genuine attempt to discover the identity of the real killer. In January 2010, the lone incriminating eyewitness against Richard at trial submitted an affidavit to the DA’s office acknowledging that he falsely indentified Mr. Miles as the shooter at the urging of the trial prosecutor.
In part, here is what the eyewitness attested to in his affidavit:
When I showed up to testify, I told the prosecutor I that I had no recollection of what the shooter looked like and that I did not believe I could identify the shooter in the courtroom. The prosecutor showed me one photograph and told me that it was the photograph which I had previously picked out and that it was the defendant. He said the defendant would be in the courtroom and that when I testified, when asked, I needed to point him out as the shooter. He added that the defendant would be sitting at the same table as the defense lawyer and that if I did not recognize him as the shooter to just point out the man sitting at the table with the defense lawyer and to say that he was the shooter.
When I got in the courtroom to testify, I looked around the courtroom and saw the man sitting at the table with the defense lawyer. I did not recognize him. He did not look like the shooter. When I was asked if I could point out the shooter, I did as I was instructed by the prosecutor and pointed to the man sitting at the table with the defense lawyer. I did that because that was what I was instructed to do by the prosecutor and not because I recognized or remembered him as being the shooter.
Update: February 15, 2012
Texas’ highest State Court, The Court of Criminal Appeals, has concluded that Richard Miles is factually innocent, and in its published opinion issued on February 15, 2012 the Court, in part, credited the evidence developed by Centurion Ministries for turning the tide in establishing the innocence of Mr. Miles.