Gilbert Poole Jr., right, accompanied by attorney Marla Mitchell-Cichon, leaves prison in Jackson, Mich., Wednesday, May 26, 2021, after being exonerated of first-degree murder in Oakland County. Poole spent 32 years in prison. Authorities said he was wrongly convicted with unreliable evidence.
DETROIT (AP) — A 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.
“I spent decades learning, reading, studying law, but none of that was working for me,” Poole, 56, said in court. “It wasn’t until I surrendered to a higher power and God stepped in and sent me a band of angels to look past the rules and regulations and looked to see who was standing in the furnace. I was standing in the furnace. I didn’t belong here.”
Poole was convicted in the fatal stabbing of Robert Mejia, whose body was found in a Pontiac field.
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.