Stuck behind bars for a violent rape he did not commit, Marlon Miller did his best to stay optimistic.
"I knew my family was going to fight for me," the twenty-year-old East St. Louis man recalls to Daily RFT. "I remained hopeful. I had my faith.... But being locked up for something you didn't do is very painful. The long days and the long nights, you just got to keep waiting. It took a toll on me."
Last week, Miller was released from jail after DNA test results proved that the authorities had incarcerated the wrong man for a brutal rape and robbery that took place at the MetroLink Emerson Park station on January 29.
Now, Miller says he wants to expose the police officers' mistreatment and manipulation that landed him in jail in the first place.
See also: - Marlon Miller Cleared Of East St. Louis Rape Charge, Considers Lawsuit - FBI Detains East St. Louis Detective Orlando Ward; Chief Says, "This Is A Shock" - Did East St. Louis Police Officer Show Up Drunk To Robbery, Curse At Victims?
As we reported last week, Miller and his attorneys are considering bringing a civil rights lawsuit against the East St. Louis Police Department. Since publishing our story, Daily RFT got a chance to speak with Miller to hear his firsthand account of how cops ended up nabbing him.
East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore has not responded to multiple requests for comment from Daily RFT.
After midnight on January 29, a 33-year-old woman exiting the train was attacked by an armed man who demanded her money, stole her cash and then raped her, cops said at the time. In February, Miller's name was splashed across news reports when police charged him with three counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault and one count of attempted armed robbery.
He had confessed, officials said.
Miller tells us that he was at the MetroLink station that night to catch a bus -- but that he knew nothing of the alleged crime until police brought him.
"That's when the interrogation began," he says. "I didn't even know what they were talking about. I said, 'What did I do?'"
Police, he recalls, had a security photo of him on the platform.
"I asked them, 'What am I being charged with?' and they didn't tell me anything," he says.
Eventually, they revealed that he was a suspect in a rape and robbery that took place and they began questioning him about what he did that night.
"I told them I didn't do it. I kept telling them that I didn't do it," he says.
Detective Orlando Ward, who has since been detained by the FBI (for seemingly unrelated drug charges) slapped him several times during questioning, Miller claims. (Floore has denied that this happened).
That was during the first interview he had with police, he says.
In a follow-up conversation, Miller claims, a different officer told him that if he confessed to committing the robbery, the cops would release him.
"'You admit to the robbery, I'll let you go,'" he recalls an officer saying. "I was so confused.... I just wanted to go home and he promised me if I said it, I was going to go home."
So, he says, he told officers that he had committed the robbery, as he claims he was instructed to do.
The officer who had given him that advice, however, was gone. And soon, Miller realized he made a huge mistake, he says.
"A light switched in my head," he says. "I'm going to be charged with both of them."
And soon after, cops told he was in fact being charged with robbery -- and rape.
"That's when the nightmare took place," he says.
For awhile, he was in shock. "My life went down the drain.... It was devastating."
He said he read scriptures behind bars and relied on his faith to stay as positive as he could knowing he could become a convicted rapist. Meanwhile, his family worked with a private attorney to secure DNA test results.
When they eventually came back, it was clear: Miller was not responsible for the crime.
"I just felt terrific," Miller recalls of hearing the news from his attorney that he would be exonerated. "I felt like a kid all over again."
Within hours of the DNA results reaching prosecutors, a motion to dismiss the case was filed. And last week, he left jail.
While he was incarcerated, he lost his job, Miller says. But since his release, he has already taken steps to enroll in school again and hopes to study sociology or a related field, he says. And for now, he's reconnecting with his girlfriend and family.
After recovering from four months in jail, Miller says he is also considering a lawsuit -- which would hopefully prevent others from facing wrongful charges.
"There are so many other people in the county jail that are there for something they didn't do," Miller says. "But the family doesn't have enough money to get a paid attorney."
He says, "I want to make sure this never happens again."