LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)—Gilbert Poole Jr was convicted of murdering Robert Mejia in 1989 who was stabbed to death and found near a running path in Pontiac, Michigan.
Poole was an ordinary 22-year-old man living with his girlfriend and working full-time as a plumber. Police in the 1980s found faulty evidence suggesting Poole was a prime suspect due to a bite mark on the victim. In addition, Poole’s girlfriend at that time even told authorities he confessed the murder of Mejia in private to her.
“We didn’t have a good relationship in the end,” said Poole, “So, I figured she was just trying to do something out of spite.”
Poole served 32-years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, and told 6 News in a digital exclusive interview– he was initially in shock and thought the mistake would eventually be solved.
“I didn’t know anything about prison I wasn’t a criminal,” Poole said, “I had never been to prison, and I was thrust into a world that says this is your life now.”
Poole says the last 32 years he repeatedly told law enforcement that he never committed the crime.
“At that time, I was getting angry because I knew it wasn’t my bite mark.,” Poole exclaimed, ” It was ludicrous for someone in that profession to make that statement, and I knew he was lying.”
Poole eventually filled out an application for the Innocence Project at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. It’s in collaboration with the Innocence Network that has previously helped release over 375 wrongfully convicted prisoners. They can determine if an inmate is innocent based on up-to-date DNA testing. The office has screened over 5,800 cases and has helped exonerate six men.
“Towards the end, I put it in God’s hands and said I need help… It’s all in your hands,” Poole stated, “and that’s when I got a group of guardian angels to come and help me.”
Poole’s attorney Marla Mitchel-Cichon provides counsel to the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project and told 6 News Poole has also helped other inmates during his sentence— with their mental health by being a positive support system.
An Oakland County judge overturned the conviction last week and now Poole is a free man.
“I’m just taking it day-by-day,” Poole exclaimed, “there’s a lot to figure out…you have to get a state ID before doing anything; you have to set up a bank account, figure out a vehicle, where you’re going to stay, how to pay bills…it’s not easy.”
Poole says each day is a new adventure and wants to spread light on people who have wrongful convictions.
“After being in there for 32 years, I was shoved out into the free world,” Poole said, “My biggest piece of advice to others like me is to read your law books, and pay attention to the changing laws–if you don’t pay attention… an opportunity will pass for somebody to take a second look.”