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114- After 32 Years Wrongfully Imprisoned for Murder, Gilbert Poole Is Reclaiming His Life

114- After 32 Years Wrongfully Imprisoned for Murder, Gilbert Poole Is Reclaiming His Life

On December 27, 1988, North Carolina resident Gilbert Poole was arrested and charged with the murder of a Michigan man he had never met. Due to faulty evidence, inaccurate eyewitness testimony, and inept defense counsel, he would ultimately be wrongfully convicted of murder and spend the next 32 years of his life in prison.

After independently maintaining his innocence for the first 14 years of his incarceration, Mr. Poole was represented by the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Innocence Project for the next 18 years. Post-conviction DNA testing was conducted on crime scene evidence that matched neither Poole’s nor the victim’s, prompting the Michigan Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit to conduct a full investigation that resulted in his exoneration on June 15th, 2021.

In this stunning and heartbreaking episode of Open Mike, Mr. Poole reflects on the profound personal losses he experienced because of his wrongful conviction, the little-known, harsh realities of the American criminal justice system, and how he intends to spend his remaining years as a free man.

Show Notes

[00:22] Welcome to Open Mike!

[00:25] Gilbert Poole’s background and bio.

[01:19] Welcome to the show, Gilbert! It’s so nice to have you here. We interviewed your attorney, Marla Mitchell-Cichon a few weeks ago and then you sent me a really nice email… tell our listeners and viewers what you thought of that interview and why you wanted to come on the show!

[03:19] May of 2021, Oakland County Judge Rae Lee Chabot set aside your conviction… we saw the photos of you exiting prison with your arms raised in victory — what was it like to walk out a free man after 32 years in prison for a crime you knew you didn’t commit and proclaimed your innocence over from day one?

[04:46] You went in at age 22 and came out at age 55… that’s a lifetime! What were some of the things that happened to your family while you were incarcerated that you can never get back?

[07:25] Did you have any siblings growing up?

[09:44] Who was Gilbert Poole at 22 years old when you were arrested? What were you up to at that point in your life?

[11:12] When you were arrested, you had a girlfriend who played a horrible, pivotal role in all this… what was her name? Were you living together at the time?

[12:59] About six months after the murder of Robert Meija, the date of which Gilbert was in Michigan instead of his native North Carolina, Gilbert’s girlfriend went to the police and implicated him in the murder — so she could have a ride from North Carolina back to Michigan.

[15:11] You get arrested for Robert’s murder; he was last seen leaving a bar where several patrons provided a description and composite sketch of a suspect some said looked like you. Did it look like you?

[17:02] Had you ever heard of Robert before? Or even been to that bar before?

[21:32] As you’re sitting there, listening to this bogus testimony, your head must just be exploding?

[24:30] Since Gilbert’s trial, bite-mark evidence has been debunked by countless leading forensic organizations. Prosecutors still try to bring it into trials, based on bad laws.

[26:29] Your lawyer didn’t give the jury a reason to disbelieve any of this shoddy evidence or testimony, no expert witnesses were called, nothing. What were they supposed to do other than believe it?

[27:27] 11 of the 12 exonerees we’ve had on Open Mike didn’t take the stand at their own trials.

[27:59] Your ex-girlfriend lied about what you told her… how did she get the information about this murder? Did she even know about it, or did she make it up when she was talking to the police and falsely claimed you had previously killed?

[29:54] Did she testify at trial?

[32:31] Due to Gilbert’s education level and lack of “finesse” in presenting his arguments as opposed to a license lawyer, the concerns he repeatedly voiced to the court of appeals were not taken seriously and dismissed.

[33:06] The blood and hairs at the scene of the crime didn’t match you, bite-mark evidence didn’t match you, and some blood-stained pebbles were also found t the scene of the crime. Were those tested?

[37:29] Is your defense attorney still practicing?

[38:11] Let’s fast forward 28 years… DNA samples confirmed your blood was nowhere at the scene of the crime. This is five years before you were released… tell us how that made it through the appellate court.

[39:52] What was the evidence that convinced the Michigan Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit that your conviction was a mistake?

[42:23] We learned on our last episode that while there are 6,000 prosecutors’ offices in America, there are only 100 conviction integrity units (CIUs).

[46:50] You were away for 32 years and have been released for not even three full months… you’re not upset! You said you could barely find any malice in your heart, which is such a wonderful thing… that you’re able to forgive quickly and try to enjoy your life. It’s mind-blowing, and it’s a lesson to us all. Listening to you is really beautiful.

[49:18] What are your plans, now that you’re out?

[50:21] I’m happy that you’re out, and that justice came for you, even if it was late. I hope that you find peace, happiness, and the mental health treatment that you deserve. If there’s anything we can do to help, we’d be honored. Do you have any parting words for viewers of this show?

[51:19] Thank you for coming on the show, Gilbert! Take care of yourself.

[51:41] You heard it — Gilbert’s story from his own words, his own voice. That was an intense one. I thank him for coming on the show, and I thank you for watching, commenting, and listening. We’ll see you back on Open Mike… until next time! 

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