Law school's project wins a reopening of 1989 murder conviction case

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ordered DNA testing in Gilbert Poole’s 1988 murder case, at the request of the WMU-Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project. If after the testing, the evidence points to another person, the Cooley Project will file a motion for new trial.

In 2003, WMU-Cooley Law School’s Innocence Project began its search for biological evidence that could prove Poole’s innocence. After learning most items of evidence had been destroyed, the Project located the remaining evidence at the Pontiac Police Department. In 2012, Project Director and Attorney Marla Mitchell-Cichon filed a request for DNA testing in the Oakland County Circuit Court, but the court denied testing.

In May 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court instructed the Court of Appeals to reconsider the request. Last week, the appeals court remanded the matter to the Oakland Circuit Court and ordered DNA testing. “Mr Poole will finally obtain the testing that may support his innocence,” Mitchell-Cichon said. Unreliable bite-mark evidence and a questionable identification contributed to Poole’s conviction.

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project is part of the Innocence Network, which has been credited with the release of over 329 wrongfully accused prisoners mainly through the use of DNA testing. Cooley’s Innocence Project has exonerated three individuals: Kenneth Wyniemko, Nathaniel Hatchett, and Donya Davis.

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project began its operation in May 2001 as a law school clinic. Operating under Michigan’s post-conviction DNA testing law, MCL 770.16, the Project’s dual mission is to identify, provide legal assistance to and secure the release of persons who are wrongfully imprisoned for crimes they did not commit and to provide its students with an invaluable learning experience.