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A man who was jailed for 32 years after being wrongfully convicted of murder has finally been freed - and now has to 'navigate a world' without the immediate family he lost while locked up.
Gilbert Lee Poole Jr, 56, had been serving a life sentence after being convicted of the 1988 murder of Robert Mejia, who was stabbed to death in Pontiac, Michigan.
Poole was convicted based on false claims made by his girlfriend at the time, along with evidence from an expert claiming his teeth matched a bite mark found on the victim's body.
However, the bite mark was later discredited, while bloodstains and other DNA from the crime scene were found not to match Poole's.
Speaking to ABC's WXYZ News after being released from prison in Jackson, Poole said: "It's really nice not to have handcuffs on, that's for sure. It'll sink in, it hasn't sunk in yet.
He added: "Now I've gotta figure out how to navigate a world I haven't seen in 33 years."
Sky News reports that, under Michigan law, anyone released after wrongful conviction is eligible to receive $50,000 (£35,000) a year. This means Poole could claim $1.6m (£1.1m).
Poole celebrated his release by gathering with remaining family members in a park - although while he was behind bars, his mum, dad and brother all sadly died.
Poole continued: "I'm relying on the guardian angels around me to hold my hand, because I'm totally lost right now.
"Without them, I'd be sitting on the sidewalk in front of the prison. I wouldn't have a number to call."
He was also joined by members of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School's Innocence Project, who had represented him.
Ater the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project filed an application with the Michigan Attorney General's Conviction Integrity Unit, the case was reinvestigated.
Marla Mitchell-Cichon of the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project said: "Mr. Poole's conviction was based on unreliable evidence, including a bite mark comparison, which is not based on science."
Mitchell-Cichon added: "I commend the Michigan Attorney General and her establishment of a conviction integrity unit that will investigate claims of innocence and uncover the truth."
According to a press release from Cooley Law School, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said: "This case serves as an example of the important work being done by our Conviction Integrity Unit.
"When we established this team in 2019, we made a commitment to ensuring those convicted of state crimes are in fact guilty while also providing justice to those wrongfully imprisoned. I appreciate the tireless work the unit put in alongside the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project to reach this outcome for Mr. Poole."
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