DNA Evidence Frees 200th American Prisoner

Twenty-four years ago, Jerry Miller was convicted of kidnapping and rape. This week, he became the 200th person exonerated by DNA evidence. He talks to News and Notes one day after his release about his wrongful conviction and newfound freedom.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

From NPR News, this is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya.

Today, we begin a two-part series looking at race, justice and the falsely accused. Yesterday, Jerry Miller was an ex-con on the national registry of sex offenders. Today, he's celebrating his newly cleared reputation. Miller, who's African-American, is the 200th person to be exonerated of a crime by DNA evidence. He was convicted of kidnapping and raping a white woman in Chicago. He spent 24 years in prison. And yesterday, Jerry Miller walked out of the Cook County Criminal Courthouse a free man, his name cleared. He's now 48 years old and told us about the day in 1982 that changed his life.

JERRY MILLER (Recently released from prison): I was at home, officers that had stopped me a week prior, you know, for no apparent reason. But their reasoning was that they saw me peering in cars like I'm going to steal a car or something. That was a lie. You know, I saw them write my name down a piece of paper and put it in a (unintelligible). And, you know, I wasn't thinking nothing of it, you know. They let me go, of course. Little did I know that, you know, that the same police would come to my home. They showed up when I stepped out of the house. I was taken in custody - put in the car. It was a bad situation, you know, I didn't even know it was coming. It just, you know, it just occurred. Put it this way, I haven't been to that home since I was taken from that home.

People look at you like, you know, you're just an animal. You know, you ain't even part of society. You don't even belong there. You know, you should be locked up.

But that wasn't me. But I still had to wear that, you know, carry that stigma. You know, it's just, it was - man, it was hard. It was real hard. You know, that battle took place directly in the mind, you know.

CHIDEYA: Jerry Miller was falsely accused of kidnapping and rape. On Monday after spending 24 years in prison, he became the 200th person exonerated by DNA evidence.

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