by Sam Levin
Marlon Miller, a twenty-year-old East St. Louis, Illinois, resident, was released from jail this week after DNA tests proved that police had the wrong suspect in a rape and robbery case.
"From day one, he has always maintained his innocence," his attorney Bill Stiehl tells Daily RFT. "I have seldom ever seen anyone as happy as when Marlon got the news that he was getting released."
Why did cops have the wrong man? According to Miller and his attorneys, officers with the East St. Louis Police Department coerced him into a confession. And if he and his family weren't able to pay for these DNA tests, he may have remained incarcerated for much longer -- and eventually could have been convicted.
"This is a very serious crime, and you have a victim that had things done to her that no one should ever have done to them," Stiehl says. "But that doesn't excuse getting a confession from somebody who was innocent."
Further, the responsible suspect is still at large -- while an innocent man has been stuck behind bars since February 19, he says.
Daily RFT left a message for East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore yesterday and will update if we hear back.
Based on reports of the case from February, Miller was charged with three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and one count of attempted armed robbery. Police then said that Miller had attacked a 33-year-old woman getting off the train at the MetroLink Emerson Park station after midnight on January 29.
A man allegedly stuck a gun in her back and demanded money -- and after she turned over the cash, raped her.
Stiehl says that there was security video at the station that showed Miller was there that night, which was why he was taken in as a suspect.
Miller was interrogated -- and eventually cops coerced him to admit to the crime which he did not commit, Stiehl says.
"They questioned him, and he told them that he was there and that he was going to catch a bus," Stiehl says. "They kept questioning him and got the alleged confession out of him."
Miller, Stiehl says, claims that he initially denied all of the charges, but that cops "promised that he would be released if he made a statement implicating himself" in the robbery.
"He gave a statement admitting to the robbery, which clearly was false, and then was charged with both charges," he says.
Stiehl adds, "He was lucky in that his family was able to afford to pay for a DNA analysis."
There is often a backlog in the Illinois state lab, he notes.
Once the analysis came back from the private lab, it was clear that he was innocent.
Miller was released Tuesday.
He and his attorneys are considering a lawsuit against the department alleging that his civil rights were violated in the process.
"We are going to look at the events which took place prior to and at the time that he gave the statement to [determine] if in fact his civil rights were violated," Stiehl says, "and if they were, who might have been responsible."
The Belleville News-Democrat says that Detective Orlando Ward may have hit Miller during his questioning. Ward, as we reported last month, was detained by the FBI. He is apparently facing drug charges.
Stiehl says the fault lies solely with the police department. St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly was acting on a written confession in a very brutal case. And within a few hours of Stiehl e-mailing over a copy of the DNA report ruling Miller out, Kelly's office filed a motion to dismiss the case, he notes.
"It obviously raises concerns, because we see cases frequently of people who have confessed," says Stiehl. "The average person who reads a newspaper article and sees someone has confessed will assume that person obviously did it. In a lot of cases that's true, but in some it's not."
Stiehl adds, "His family has been extremely supportive, and they were convinced from the beginning of his innocence.... They were consistent in saying this just doesn't sound like Marlon. This isn't something he would do."