Buting ,Williams & Stilling ,S.C. | A Criminal Defense Law Firm

Call Today for a FREE Consultation

262-821-0999.

Ohio man gets $4M; exonerated of rape after 16 years in prison

by | Mar 27, 2023 | Wrongful Convictions

Christopher Miller was convicted of rape and other charges in 2002. He was sentenced to 40 years. The hitch is, he didn’t commit the crime.

He was convicted in an apparent rush to judgment after a Cleveland Heights, Ohio, woman was attacked and raped. Her purse was also stolen, and police were able to track her cellphone.

They tracked it and eventually found it in Christopher’s possession. However, as he said at the time, he got it from a stranger who traded it for drugs.

Despite the shaky evidence, Christopher went to prison for the alleged rape until the Ohio Innocence Project became involved in his case. That group pushed for the crime scene DNA to be tested.

The newly tested evidence pointed to two other men who had been convicted of a similar crime. None of the crime scene DNA matched Christopher.

In August 2021, a judge ruled that Christopher was innocent and had been wrongly imprisoned. That made him eligible to bring a civil rights lawsuit.

Cleveland Heights and its police department still deny wrongdoing. A spokesperson said that “proceeding to try a lawsuit over events nearly 22 years ago poses a substantial risk for both sides in these circumstances.”

Nevertheless, the city settled Christopher’s lawsuit for $4 million.

“Too many years were stolen from me and my family. I can never get that time back, time to raise my children and build my life,” he said in a statement. “But I am thriving now, and I am glad to put this final chapter of my case behind me so I can move forward.”

We wish Christopher every happiness in his new life.

Wrongful convictions are not limited to murder cases

The same factors that lead to wrongful murder convictions apply to many other types of cases. There is often great urgency to find the perpetrator. Police officers become overly confident in their theories, often due to reliance on junk science. In other cases, there is police or prosecutorial misconduct. A witness is encouraged to recognize someone. Pro-defense evidence is suppressed.

These are all common reasons for wrongful conviction, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Wrongful convictions steal years and decades from innocent people. They often also mean that the real perpetrator goes free. That is why we must all appreciate and support the defense function in our criminal legal system. Without a fair balance of resources on both sides, miscarriages of justice are likely to continue.

Practice Areas

“I just want to say thank you for the outstanding work you have done for him and let you know how much we appreciate the time and attention you gave to his case. We are obviously overjoyed by today’s dismissal!” (Child pornography case dismissed after motion to suppress was granted)”

“After having had time to exhale, we thank each one of you and all the others who contributed to the exemplary Supreme Court presentation. We are proud of your efforts on our behalf and, equally important, on behalf of the many present and future defendants statewide.” (Client’s comment after Supreme Court oral argument)

“Thank you. Thank you. I am so pleased to hear that we won. It doesn’t seem that it was even a close call. I appreciate your efforts.” (Oconto County defendant after Buting, Williams & Stilling got his prison sentence overturned in the court of appeals) ”

“Your time and advice was appreciated more than words can express at a time when we really needed someone to guide us.” (Client)

“The outcome was amazing, one unavailable even under identical circumstances in probably 98 percent of federal courtrooms around the country. Separate and apart from the outcome, though, I am supremely impressed by your efforts on your client’s behalf. Your comments in support of the requested sentence were perfect in tone and, having now reviewed the extensive sentencing memorandum you filed, your work in that regard was exemplary as well. Your client was certainly fortunate to have you as his attorney.” (Local federal court attorney present at a sentencing)

“I can’t thank you enough, not only for all of the tireless work that you and your staff put into my case, but for telling me what I needed to hear, at a time when I absolutely had to hear it. I consider myself blessed for everything turning out the way it did, especially since I blindly picked you out of a phone book! You helped me, my family and friends in many more ways than the money ever could.” (Child pornography client)

“I think you will find that in any circles where Kathy’s name is raised, people will always respond positively and identify her as an extremely hardworking, knowledgeable and ethical lawyer who is timely and effective with any endeavor she takes on. These circles would include colleagues, friends, prosecutors, judges, professors and others who have crossed paths with Kathy. They would also include the many lawyers like me who have referred numerous cases to Kathy, invariably with positive feedback from the clients regarding her knowledge of their case, empathy, professionalism and fair-mindedness in addressing their concerns.” (Fellow attorney)

“Thank you for giving [our son] back to us. Wonderful work!” (Family of client accused of armed robbery after charges were dismissed)

“Yes, His perfect time and perfect place, you were a part of this plan. I almost didn’t hire you, but I took a step of faith trusting Him and look what happened? Praise God. Our Lord put you in your vocation for a reason, continue to help those He brings your way. May He bless you in ALL you do!” (Client who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a northwestern Wisconsin county. He was released from prison after attorneys got his conviction reversed.)

“I really cannot thank you enough for your past help. You really know your stuff. It is actually funny when I think about my other past attorney’s knowledge and then when I talk with you. It’s like night and day. You’re like a walking book of knowledge with a purpose-driven life. Thanks.” (Brown County client of attorney Buting)

“A year later and I still believe your defense is the single best example of lawyering I have ever seen.” (Television reporter commenting on attorney Buting’s defense of Steven Avery)

“You have a certain brilliance that makes me sure that when you talk, it is good information and I am in good hands. You tell it to me like it is even when the things you say are not always the things that I would like to hear. You keep it REAL!!!” (Brown County client)

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like this was one of the biggest blessings that happened in my life. I put this along with my children being born healthy and when I survived that horrific shooting. I appreciate everything you have done for me. I couldn’t ask for better lawyers. I want to say thank you to everybody at your firm. I owe you more than the fee you so rightfully deserve. … You gave me back hope. Thank you, man! Out of my 36 years … I have never seen such kindness before. I don’t know what I did to deserve this; I’m very thankful nonetheless. Thank you for giving me hope again. Thank you for your generosity. There are still some really good people around.” (Federal criminal appeal client)

“There is no other attorney I’ve ever even heard of I’d rather have as chief counsel and leader of my defense/appeals than Jerome Buting. You’re the best. Period.” (Dane County client)

“Your advice and counsel were greatly appreciated. We appreciate you taking the time on your Sunday and evenings to help us. We are SO happy about the results! Thanks again.” (Waukesha County client)

“Thank you again … for everything. Five and one-half years of commitment, so many ups and downs and an outcome like that. You did a GREAT job.” (Waukesha County felony drug offense client)