Friday, May 21, 2010

Meet the Exonerated: Nevada's Death Row

Roberto Miranda who came to the United States in 1980 from Cuba as part of the Mariel boat lift, spent 14 years on Nevada's death row for the August 1981 stabbing death of Manuel Rodriguez Torres, a crime he did not commit.

Miranda maintained his innocence throughout his 14 years on death row. Prosecutors originally offered him a plea bargain whereby he would serve as little as 10 years in prison, but he refused because he was innocent.

At trial, he was represented by an attorney, with one year's experience, who had inherited the case when his colleague died. Miranda insisted that a key prosecution witness Fernando Cabrera, had a motive to frame him. Miranda said he had sexual relations with Cabrera's girlfriend, but there was no attempt to locate the witnesses that would help prove his case.

A Clark County jury sentenced Miranda to death in 1982 after finding him guilty of first-degree murder and other charges that stemmed from the August 1981 stabbing death.

In Miranda's appeal, his appellate attorney located the witnesses and convinced a judge to grant him a new trial.

In overturning his conviction, the judge wrote: "The lack of pretrial preparation by trial counsel...cannot be justified."

Miranda was released from prison in September 1996. During an interview at his Las Vegas apartment several months later, he discussed the possibility of filing a lawsuit to seek compensation for his time behind bars.

In 1998, he filed a federal lawsuit that accused the public defender's office of contributing to his wrongful conviction in a murder case. The lawsuit alleged the public defender's office refused to investigate and defend his case adequately and that Las Vegas police failed to preserve and disclose critical information that would have cleared him.

Miranda settled his civil rights lawsuit against the Clark County public defender's office for $5 million, ending the Cuban immigrant's 23-year entanglement with America's justice system.

"Even if they pay me $1 billion for every year I spent in prison, they're not going to pay me or make the pain, the memory and everything that happened to me in 14 years go away. That stays with me until I die." Roberto Miranda
Miranda v. Clark County, Nevada, et al. Opinion No. 00-15734 (35 kb PDF), D.C. No. CV-98-01121-LDG. In this opinion, filed 8 February 2002, a 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed Miranda's suit, ruling that it is not unconstitutional for a locality to base its allocation of defense resources on the results of a criminal defendant's polygraph test.


Anonymous,  11:20  

No innocent man should ever have to spend one day in prison.
They say that things have improoved it is all down to forenasics theese days. Would you want to be the innocent man or woman risking your freedom? Annie

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