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Harry Miller a Louisiana native who spent 4½ years at the Utah State Prison for a robbery he did not commit was declared factually innocent Monday by a 3rd District judge.
The declaration issued by Judge Royal Hansen brought Miller, 57, the exoneration he has been waiting for since his case was overturned in 2007. Miller left prison that year, but has been waiting for an official exoneration, which finally came Monday.
"It wasn't like he walked out of prison today," said Katie Monroe, director of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center, which has been working to clear Miller's name. "He hadn't been pronounced an innocent person. In the eyes of the public, and especially prospective employers, he was a convicted felon."
Monroe said Miller, who has been living in Salt Lake City with his brother, struggled to find work after his release from prison. She called the judge's order "a huge success" for Miller, and she said she hopes it will pave the way for him to finally rebuild his life.
Salt Lake County prosecutors in 2007 dismissed the first-degree felony aggravated robbery case against Miller after his appellate attorneys gathered evidence that supported his alibi.
Miller claimed he could not have stolen a woman's purse at knifepoint in the parking lot of a Salt Lake City convenience store on Dec. 8, 2000, because he was in Donaldsonville, La., recovering from a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak.
At Miller's 2003 trial, the jury learned from hospital and employment records that Miller was in Louisiana two weeks before the stroke and one week after. But a prosecutor argued that during that three-week window Miller had time to come to Utah, commit the crime and return home. The state also relied on eyewitness identifications from the robbery victim and the store clerk.
Miller was convicted and ordered to serve five years to life in prison.
Appellate attorneys later obtained additional evidence including testimony from Miller's home care nurse which narrowed Miller's window of criminal opportunity to only seven days.
The new evidence persuaded prosecutors to dismiss the case, which had been before the Utah Court of Appeals.
Miller was released from prison July 6, 2007.
Monroe said that Miller will receive restitution from the state for the time he spent in prison, now that Hansen has signed the order exonerating him. She estimated the amount at about $120,000.
She said the money may enable Miller to start anew and that the man would like to go back to his native Louisiana, where one of his daughters lives. The other daughter resides in Arkansas, she said.
"It's a huge success for him," Monroe said of Hansen's order. "Hopefully he won't have too many struggles going forward."
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