Michigan Man Exonerated After 32 Years in Prison

Gilbert Poole's murder conviction was based on debunked bite mark evidence
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 27, 2021 2:46 AM CDT
Michigan Man Exonerated After 32 Years in Prison
Gilbert Poole Jr., right, accompanied by attorney Marla Mitchell-Cichon, leaves prison in Jackson, Mich., Wednesday, May 26, 2021.   (WMU-Cooley Law School via AP)

A Michigan man was exonerated Wednesday after 32 years in prison when authorities agreed that he was wrongly convicted of a fatal stabbing in suburban Detroit based on faulty evidence, including a bite mark on the victim. For years, Gilbert Poole Jr. had challenged his first-degree murder conviction with expertise from the Innocence Project at WMU-Cooley Law School. An Oakland County judge dismissed the conviction at the request of the Michigan attorney general's office, clearing the way a few hours later for Poole's release from a prison in Jackson, the AP reports. Poole, 56, was convicted in the fatal stabbing of Robert Mejia, whose body was found in a Pontiac field in 1988. He could now be eligible for up to $1.6 million under Michigan's wrongful conviction compensation program.

Poole’s girlfriend told police that he had confessed to her that he met Mejia in a bar and later killed him during a violent robbery attempt. A dentist linked Poole to a bite mark on the victim. Poole repeatedly denied any role. In 2015, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered DNA testing of biological material gathered by police in 1988. There was evidence of type A blood at the scene, which didn’t match Mejia’s or Poole’s blood. "Someone else fought with Robert Mejia in the woods that early morning and someone else killed him,” Assistant Attorney General Robyn Frankel told the judge. Attorney General Dana Nesse had no objection to vacating Poole’s conviction. Bite mark evidence "has been widely debunked. It's not reliable anymore," Nessel said. "Then you have here not just that but the advent of very reliable types of testing such as DNA."

(More Michigan stories.)

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