Exonerated by DNA, Jerry Miller Speaks Out
ALEX COHEN, host:
This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Cohen.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
I'm Alex Chadwick.
Coming up, the very passions of a singer from Iran who's now singing here.
COHEN: But first, in Chicago yesterday, a judge exonerated 48-year-old Jerry Miller. He served more than 20 years for a brutal rape, but recent DNA testing proved he wasn't the rapist.
A group called The Innocence Project, which helped prove that Miller was not guilty, says he is the 200th person in the U.S. to be cleared by DNA evidence. Jerry Miller was paroled last year, but still had to register as a sex offender. I asked him what went through his mind when the judge said he was cleared.
Mr. JERRY MILLER: I said to myself, this is what I've been waiting for, you know. And I was happy.
COHEN: You were in jail for 24 years. That's a very long...
Mr. MILLER: Twenty-five.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. MILLER: Yeah.
COHEN: Do you ever just get to a point where you stopped even saying it was mistaken identity, because you just thought no one was ever going to listen?
Mr. MILLER: What I stopped doing was trying to tell everybody. In the beginning, you will try to tell everybody your story because you want people to listen. You want people to know. But after a while, you know, it doesn't matter what people believe. You just have to believe in yourself.
COHEN: Did you ever give up hope?
Mr. MILLER: Yeah, moment by moment. Day by day. Hope will go away from you more than you know. It's not losing hope that's a problem, it's regaining it.
COHEN: Mr. Miller, if I had been imprisoned for that long, I might feel rather bitter at this point. Do you have any feelings of anger at all for the time that you were spent when you should have been free?
Mr. MILLER: Alex, I'm human just like you. I have been bitter. I have been angry, you know. I've went through all those emotions that a normal person would go through. But at one point, I had to come to the realization that if I did not improve myself and become positive in this negative situation, I could not do anything to help myself.
So I had to become a positive individual - you know, go to school, work - you know, do things that would help me grow as an individual even though I was locked up. You know, when you do that, you don't have time to be bitter or angry, you know. And that proved to be a correct decision, because you're on the phone talking to me because I'm innocent and because I was able to free myself with the help of the Innocence Project, you know. I do thank God daily.
COHEN: You were paroled in March of last year. Is that correct?
Mr. MILLER: Right.
COHEN: So you were free for a while or out of jail, at least, but not cleared.
Mr. MILLER: Being a registered sex offender and being up on the - that type of parole is not easy. Trust me.
COHEN: What did you have to do?
Mr. MILLER: Well, you have to register at wherever you are located. If there are immediate police stations, you have to - you're going to have all kind of restrictions, you know. I couldn't even visit my nieces and nephews. And if I did, I would have to basically sit before someone to, you know, basically make a deal and sign papers - you know, it was - man, it was crazy.
MONTAGNE: Now that you've been exonerated by DNA, how do you think that's going to change things in your life?
Mr. MILLER: Well, I'll tell you one thing, just the fact that the truth is known, I feel better by myself. Not that I didn't, it just that I feel like a load has been lifted.
COHEN: Do you think people will automatically start treating you now as if you've been innocent this whole time?
Mr. MILLER: Would you?
COHEN: I would hope so.
Mr. MILLER: I mean, why would you hope so? I mean, I proved my innocence.
COHEN: I just wonder. I mean, I have no idea what it's like to be registered as a sex offender knowing you don't do it. A judge clears your name, but do you think people will accept it that quickly?
Mr. MILLER: Maybe an ignorant person wouldn't. But, you know, an intelligent person would realize that, I mean, injustice was done, and I have just been blessed and fortunate that I was able to tell the world and prove to the world that an injustice was done. You know, I can't do no more than that. I can't correct someone who's ignorant. If they're ignorant, they're just ignorant.
COHEN: Mr. Miller, what are you going to do from today on out that might be different had your name not been cleared?
Mr. MILLER: I just want to, you know, begin a life. You know, I was 21, 22 -you know, I really haven't lived.
COHEN: Now that your name has been cleared, do you think that might help you be able to get other jobs, different jobs if you wanted to?
Mr. MILLER: It should. I mean, with my name being cleared, that means, you know, anything claiming me to be a criminal is gone. So, you know, I should be able to do anything anyone else is doing.
COHEN: Is there something you'd like to do that maybe your past might have prevented you from doing previously?
Mr. MILLER: Well, I didn't have as much movement as I required to the things I wanted to do. But now I can - if I want to go to school, you know, I don't have to worry about, you know, the negative part of being a sex offender and going to school or work. And I can work anywhere where I want to work, and go when I want to go and come back when I want to come back.
COHEN: Is there some place you'd like to go outside of Illinois?
Mr. MILLER: You know, I have family all over the country, you know. I want to travel, you know. I want to go outside the country. You know, we'll see. Right now, I just - I'm just thankful to be able to just go, you know, when I want to.
COHEN: Jerry Miller, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.
Mr. MILLER: Okay. Thank you, Alex.
(Soundbite of music)
COHEN: More coming up on DAY TO DAY.
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