During the original trial, the forensics expert stated that based on “bite-mark” evidence, there was a 2.1 billion to one chance that anyone other than Mr. Poole committed the crime. Ironically, the Cooley Innocence Project substantiated that DNA evidence from the crime screen showed without a doubt that someone other than Mr. Poole committed the murder. One reform in criminal forensics is that courtroom testimony not be exaggerated beyond what is statistically supported. Such misleading statements are very persuasive to juries. Beyond that, the “science” of bite-mark evidence has been thoroughly debunked. [Today legislation is being crafted that would give Michigan courtrooms guidance as to what forensic techniques have undergone the scrutiny of the scientific community and therefore what testimony should be admitted as evidence, avoiding tragedies like this.]
Thirty-two years ago, Gilbert Poole stated at his sentencing “So help me God, I will overturn this.” At his exoneration hearing, he said “The system did not work for me.” He goes on to say, “But then I was sent a band of angels who looked beyond the rules and regulations to look at who was standing before them." Mr. Poole did not state who those angels were, but we have some pretty good guesses.
One angel he certainly had in mind is Marla Mitchell, past director of the Cooley Innocence Clinic. Mitchell has worked with Mr. Gilbert for over 18 years. She said that "Mr. Poole has never given up trying to prove his innocence, with or without legal representation. This case has died a thousand deaths but he never gave up.” Mitchell then went on to say “Gilbert has had everything taken away from him. Now, we are his family.", underscoring the personal nature of innocence work after working with a person for years.
Another good guess as to whom Poole regarded as one of his angels is Attorney Lori Montgomery who received special recognition from Ms. Mitchell, stating that she is “an accomplished DNA attorney and so much more”. She worked on Mr. Gilbert's case while at Cooley Innocence Clinic and then at the State CIU.
Another “angel” is Robyn Frankel, director of the State CIU. She was the first director appointed by Dana Nessel and had to create the entire system from scratch, though she did benefit from the extensive experience of the Wayne County CIU under Valerie Newman. Underfunded to begin with, the State CIU had a difficult time with the pandemic. An exoneration of a Michigander who may not have stood a chance within the traditional Court of Appeals route is something Frankel has been working toward for a long time. She was honored and humbled to present Gilbert Poole’s case with a motion to vacate the conviction. She was particularly moved by Mr. Poole's circumstances and stated, "I have been told that Mr. Poole is grateful to us and that embarrasses me. . . that he should be thankful for us giving him back something which never should have been taken from him. Mr. Poole, on behalf of the State of Michigan, we are deeply sorry."
Judge Rae Chabot
The last angel to be mentioned in this proceeding is Judge Rae Chabot who simply said, “The motion of the Attorney General is granted.” Then clapped her hands and congratulated Gilbert Poole.