Lifestyle & Human Interest

Innocent Man Finally Goes Free After 21 Years in Prison After True Murderer Steps Forward


After 21 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, Philadelphia resident John Miller is soaking up the delicious freedom of life outside bars.

Miller’s story would frustrate and infuriate even the most patient of people, but Miller, 44, says he is not bitter about spending half his life behind bars. Rather, he is looking forward to the future, taking his niece to the zoo, eating a good steak, and learning about smart phones.

How was John Miller wrongfully convicted of murder? 

Despite the weak and waffling testimony of just one key witness and no physical evidence linking Miller to the crime, a jury convicted Miller of second-degree murder in 1998. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The murder victim was Anthony Mullen, who was shot and killed while working as a parking lot attendant in Philadelphia in October 1996.

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Miller’s arrest and conviction was based almost entirely on the testimony of one witness, Miller’s childhood acquaintance, David Williams.

Williams had been arrested for robbery at the time, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, and was facing charges of his own. He believed that his sentence would be reduced if he could successfully blame Miller for killing Mullen.

Williams was “willing to say just about anything, including demonstrably and incontestably false information, in an attempt to reduce his sentence,” court documents read, according to The Inquirer.

Williams told police that Miller had confessed to the murder to him, but later changed his story and confessed to being the real murderer.

But Williams’ confession was not enough to convince the courts, who believed he was fabricating the confession.

In December 2002, Williams again confessed to the murder in a letter he wrote to Miller’s mother.

“I can’t live with this on my conscience,” Williams wrote, according to court records obtained by CNN. “Your son had no knowledge of this crime. He wasn’t even there. I lied on him.”

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How were the charges against Miller eventually dismissed?

From 1998 to 2011, Miller filed over 10 appeals, all of which were denied, his legal defense team Pepper Hamilton LLP stated.

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In 2011, Miller received a glimmer of hope when the Pennsylvania Innocence Project (PAIP) agreed to take his case.

The combined Pepper Hamilton and PAIP team spent eight long years and over 3,000 hours helping Miller regain his freedom, the Pepper Hamilton release stated.

The team eventually uncovered exculpatory evidence “that had not been previously disclosed to Muller,” the release stated. It was “pivotal” to allowing Miller to go free.

On July 31, thanks to his dedicated legal defense team, Miller was released from prison.

According to CNN, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has not stated whether it will charge Williams for the killing.

What is next for Miller?

“I’m very happy and excited that after 21 years I’m finally being heard and that my innocence has reached the surface,” Miller said in a statement provided by Pepper Hamilton.

“I’m going home to my family. I’m overwhelmed, excited, and happy. I have a good team who helped me through this. Without them, I don’t know what would have happened or where I would have been.”

Thomas Gallagher, Chairman of Pepper Hamilton, took Miller’s case on a pro-bono basis, and was thrilled to see Miller’s prison release.

“The entire team at Pepper Hamilton is thrilled for both John and his family,” Gallagher in the Pepper Hamilton news release. “To see John walk out of prison as a free man today is an almost indescribable feeling. It has been an honor to represent John and a pleasure to partner with the PAIP over the past eight years to secure his freedom.”

Hannah McPhelin, also a member of Miller’s legal defense team, said Miller showed incredible fortitude over the years.

“I am in awe of the strength, resolve and willpower John has shown over the past 21 years,” McPhelin said in the Pepper Hamilton news release. “He is a man of tremendous patience and grace.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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