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Cover Story

An Innocent Man Page 1

Harry Miller tries to reclaim his life after spending years in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit.

By Stephen Dark
Posted // June 22,2011 -

“Mr. Miller,” the Utah state prison guard said. “Pack up your shit and get out.” Harry Miller stood in his cell and cried uncontrollably, as cellmates put his few possessions in a box. “I figured I’d never get out,” he says. “I was just too happy to move.”

As the 53-year-old walked through the prison just before 2 p.m. on July 6, 2007, other prisoners clapped and cheered the African-American from Donaldsonville, La. In 2003, a 3rd District Court jury convicted him of aggravated robbery, and Judge Sheila McCleve sentenced him to five years to life. He didn’t do the crime—snatching a woman’s purse at knifepoint—he told fellow inmates, because he’d been thousands of miles away in Louisiana recovering from a stroke when the crime was committed.

“Taking somebody’s life away, that’s hard,” Miller says, reflecting on his four years of hard time in a growly, Southern accent. “Losing all those years I’ll never get back again.”

In prison, he says, you accumulate “the weight” of worrying about doing or saying something that earns you additional prison time. As he walked out of the gate and felt the sun on his skin, “all that weight left my body.”

Jensie Anderson of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center [RMIC] hopes to have Miller declared “factually innocent” under a 2008 statute so he can receive $115,000 in compensation for his three years behind prison bars post-sentencing. (A year Miller spent in jail awaiting trial is apparently not included.) Anderson—a University of Utah law professor who runs the federally funded nonprofit RMIC’s innocence clinic staffed by law students—says the evidence of Miller’s innocence is simple: “Harry wasn’t in the state [at the time of the crime]. I have no doubt of that. It’s a simple case of mistaken identity. Not only was he not in the state, he was ill, recovering from a stroke.”

Miller’s wrongful conviction highlights the issue of faulty eyewitness identification. Nationally, out of 273 inmates exonerated of their crimes through DNA testing, 204 of the convictions involved eyewitness misidentification. Even more disturbing, national eyewitness expert and University of Iowa psychology professor Gary Wells says, conservatively, only “5 percent of eyewitness-identification cases […] can produce DNA tests to ‘trump’ an eyewitness identification.” This means that for every one of the 204 exonerations, “there should be another 19 [wrongful convictions] that could never be overturned by DNA because there was no DNA evidence to be analyzed.”

Miller’s tragedy is inevitably bound to that of his alleged victim, former Salt Laker Julia Smart, who not only lost the justice she thought she had after he went to prison, but also arguably has to wrestle with her own guilt that she helped put an innocent man behind bars. For the eight jury members deliberating on faulty evidence, finding an innocent man guilty must similarly have echoes of guilt and anguish.


Anderson notes that Utah is one of only two states that have innocence statutes on its books. Indeed the Utah Attorney General’s Office pushed hard for Utah signing into law the 2008 Exoneration and Innocence Assistance Bill. “This new law [also] affirms our obligation to provide a compassionate response in those rare cases where the wrong person is sent to prison,” Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said in a press release.

So why, wonders a bewildered Anderson, “do they now not want anyone to use it?” She is referring to the AG’s decision in late May to appeal Deborah Brown’s exoneration of a murder a judge ruled in March she did not commit after she had served 17 years in prison. But Miller’s case is different. Attorneys on all sides, including the attorney general, agree his case is rare. Given that rarity, argue Miller’s supporters, why did it take the legal system so long to first release an innocent man, and now, hopefully, acknowledge to the world that a mistake was made? If Miller were an example, Scott Reed of the attorney general’s office says, “of one time [when the system was fallible] and we accept that, then we are going to correct it.”

Anderson says Miller, who currently works part-time as a landscaper for Salt Lake County, was “failed by the system through the police investigation, through his arrest, his trial, his appeal.” His petition to be declared factually innocent is “an opportunity for the system to at least attempt to make it right.”

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Posted // July 9,2011 at 14:10 What's most disgusting about this case is the fact that the Brandon and Julia Smart are still making themselves sound like they've been victimized by Mr. Miller.


Posted // July 29,2011 at 14:38 - @ "Mikee" You think what you want, I actually have a life and two young boys to take care of... the idea that i would come here and post under my REAL FULL name and IP address, then fake an name and IP address to just to back myself up on a retarded internet news story/blog is laughable. I wish that I had enough time to pull ridiculous stunts like that. Think what you want, there are others that agree with my side. Not everyone is willing to believe Mr. Miller's alibi (That is a FAMILY MEMBER)who's testimony is, in the judges own words, "unreliable at best".


Posted // July 29,2011 at 14:25 - LOL

Love that you've been posting under an Anonymous name to back yourself up, Brandon. Hilarious, and really goes to show that you're not a lying piece of white trash.


Posted // July 11,2011 at 09:25 - Brandon, you are wasting your time with morons and fools. You make perfect sense and your comments are valid and I understand you're trying your hardest to intelligently make your case. But you're attempting to do this with people that literally do not have the mental capacity to understand what you are saying and that are only here to be contradictory. You know what they say about competing in the Special Olympics, right? Even if you win... This Mikee person is probably Miller or one of his friends or family members. Miss Paralegal Student is getting off on this and you've become her out-of-kilter clothes washer that she'll frantically rub against until the spin cycle ends. I'm not telling you what to do but if I were you I'd stop tormenting myself and let her find a different leg to hump.


Posted // July 10,2011 at 15:29 - @ Melissa: For once, you are right, he didn't mention race in any court documents. he did repeatedly mention it in this interview and on his YouTube videos. It is pretty obvious to me (and Anonymous at least it seems) that Mr. Miller is racist. He said nothing about the white people who helped him get released from his "wrongful" sentence. I don't really care what others think or the opinion they form, especially if they are ignorant like you and Mikee. I don't think someone should be held to a different standard of justice or be given special considerations due to their skin color. That does NOT make me racist. The sad thing is that no one would have questioned our identification at ALL if Mr. Miller was white. We wouldn't even be having this conversation. Unless Mr. miller who has an exact twin or a clone, we didn't identify the wrong person. The real victims are the targets of his next crimes. It's obvious he is a violent person to me (he supposedly choked his girlfriend and fought with Police), but go ahead and keep defending him.

I'll have a Mai-Tai on the beach for ya.

It's pretty obvious that Mr. Miller doesn't really want to leave Utah, he keeps coming back for a place that has "victimized" him so horribly.


Posted // July 10,2011 at 14:59 - Wow, Brandon your long-winded comment made me chuckle. You and your wife do make yourselves out to be victims of Mr. Miller, I see it and so does Mikee. It can't be that everyone else, who didn't experience the commission of the crime, could all be forming the same opinion based on the fact that Mr. Miller is "playing the race card" & is in fact "racist" himself. That is about the most unintelligent thing you have said on this board so far. I never read anything, anywhere in any of the court documents where Mr. Miller said anything about race, his or otherwise. I mean, there is a DISTINCT possibility that you or Julia misidentified the perpetrator of either of the crimes Mr. Miller was accused of committing.


Posted // July 9,2011 at 14:30 - How are we acting victimized? We are simply sharing our side of the story. That's it. Perhaps my two cents wouldn't be so "worthless" to you if it were your wife, sister, or mother who had a knife or gun held or pointed at them? Would you stand up and testify for them? Ok you think we were wrong, I got that. I don't. I know we were/are right.

Funny how nobody says a damn thing about Mr. Miller's other crimes. He choked his girlfriend after being released from his "wrongful" imprisonment. He fought with Police before it. Why is it so hard for anyone to believe he could've committed these crimes?

For such a "worthless" two cents you sure are getting your panties in a bunch over it.

The truth is Mr. Miller is a RACIST himself who is playing the race card and winning. I pray for the citizens of Utah and hope that Mr. Miller doesn't commit more violent crimes simply because the cops didn't do their jobs properly and the State of Utah is too afraid of "wrongfully" convicting a black man to do the right thing.


Posted // July 9,2011 at 14:10 - Here, take one of my nickels and keep your worthless two cents.


Posted // July 1,2011 at 22:54
First of all, I want to Thank Stephen Dark for the story, and for at least partially representing our side of this story...
I remain convinced of Mr. Miller's guilt, regardless of the story he tells (which came to light only a year after the initial trial, lawyer mistake or not).
I identified Mr. Miller the night of the Dee's robbery based on many factors (I was 100% sure then and still am now that he committed the Dee's robbery. It doesn't surprise me that they didn't find any matching DNA, as it was winter time and he was wearing gloves at the time of the robbery. My identification was based on 3 things (none of which were skin color): The jacket/coat, pantz, and boots that the suspect was wearing at the time of the robbery. SLPD pulled out several black bar patrons from downtown SLC immediately after the robbery, none of which were identified as the suspect. My eyewitness identification was no more than an hour and a half after the robbery, it was still very fresh in my mind, so the notion of a misidentification is false. They also fail to mention in this story that the EXACT amount of cash in small bills was found in the apartment he was staying in (his borther's apartment which happened to be a whole block and a half from the crime scene). Also, what was Mr. Miller, who seems to want us all to believe he is old and frail doing out at midnight the night of the robbery and arrest in the first place? Why did he have a warrant?
As far as Julia's robbery, I did not witness it, so I can not be 100% sure of Mr. Miller being the suspect in that case, however, I do know my wife, and I know she would not have put herself and our unborn son through a traumatic process such as the one she did unless she was also 100% sure of Mr. Miller's guilt.
The case of Julia being robbed could've been handled much better to say the least. the SLPD made her, the VICTIM seem as if it was her fault she was robbed. They did no fingerprinting or other forensic investigation (even though Julia requested it), and also put in the report that the suspect was 19-21, when in fact Julia was very sure the suspect had grey in his beard at the time of the robbery (not to many 19-21 year-olds have grey in theior beard that I know). They seem to have made this part of the report up. Had they actaully taken fingerprints, there would be some sort of evidence to prove Mr. Miller guilty or innocent. Instead they made Julia feel like it was her fault for leaving her car running.
Mr. Miller seems to be painting a picture of himself that is simply not true. Why after his release, was he found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend? What about the drug charges?

You have to ask yourself, if he was capable of committing the Dee's robbery (which again, i am 100% sure he did), is it a stretch to believe he would also commit Julia's robbery? It is obvious he travels back and forth from Utah to Louisiana and vice-versa quite a bit.
Julia and I do not have a racist bone in our body, so it is upsetting to see the story being portrayed in this way. hopefully readers will read my comments and at least have an open enough mind to not fall for the BS Mr. Miller is spewing.

You also have to ask yourself, does it seem possible that both Julia and I would wrongly identify the same suspect for two completely otherwise un-related crimes? That seems like quite the stretch of possiblities to me.
Julia and I both felt and still do feel like we did the right thing. I seriously hope that Mr. Miller is not found factually innocent unless the same level of scrutiny is applied to proving his innocence as were applied to try and prove his guilt. I feel like we have all been duped here.
Just my two cents.


Posted // July 9,2011 at 14:11 - Here, take one of my nickels and keep your worthless two cents.


Posted // June 27,2011 at 21:35

All negroes look the same to white people named Smart. I guess the jury had to believe the colored man was guilty if a good old white girl said he was guilty despite the evidence. It is great to be of color in fucking racist Utah.


Posted // July 3,2011 at 01:15 - @ Nate: your comment "All negroes look the same to white people named Smart" might be sarcastic (hard to tell) but nonetheless, that is pretty freakin racist in itself. All I'm saying is if you're going to accuse Anonymous of being a bigot and racist, maybe you should look in the mirror. My Bother in law is Black and I hang out with him almost every day. We are very close. he doesn't look the same as every other black man to me. That shit isn't funny and perpetuates the ignorance of racism. The only evidence to prove Harry Miller was in Louisiana is a hospital release on November 28t. Everything else is questionable and can easily be perfected to be verifiable a year after the fact.

I know 100% that I identified the correct person, Harry Miller, for the robbery I witnessed. Apparently that isn't enough nowadays, especially in a State that is deathly afraid of appearing politically-incorrect for "wrongfully" convicting a black man.


Posted // June 29,2011 at 17:17 - Funny though because Anonymous is too dumb to figure out how his comment comes across as bigoted or hateful in any way. Fucking dumbass!!


Posted // June 27,2011 at 14:57

Again, I did NOT come here to pick a fight. I guess you must not have anything better to do with your time but, you might find some people to argue with on However, I am finished with this conversation. You know what you are right, you are superior to me. My intellect is questionable at best. I am not all that smart & I couldn't argue my way out of a paper bag!! Have a nice day "Mr. I want the last word"...peace!!


Posted // June 27,2011 at 14:12

Fun for you must be coming on here to argue. I will no longer engage you in an arguement because obviously that is what you want. Why don't you find someone who wants a fight but, your words are bigoted. If I "wanted to work as a hairdresser" in your words, then I would do that. However, that is not my chosen field of study. Sorry that my chosen major pisses you off, now grow up and go pick a fight with someone else LOSER!!!!


Posted // June 27,2011 at 14:48 - Actually, Melissa, you lost before you began and there never was an argument - just you tripping over your words. I don't expect you to see that, though, and don't care. It's your problem.