I-Team: See first moment of freedom for wrongfully convicted man

CLEVELAND - The FOX 8 I-Team captured a moment that seemed impossible. Thursday afternoon, Christopher Miller walked out of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center when only hours earlier he’d been serving a 40-year sentence for rape and more.

As he took his first steps out in fresh air, Miller told FOX 8, "Unexplainable. Unexplainable. I waited a long time for this.”

Recently, the I-Team broke the news of what led to this.

Miller had been convicted for the rape and robbery of a woman in Cleveland Heights, an attack that happened in 2001. But the Ohio Innocence Project pushed to have evidence retested with new DNA technology. Cuyahoga County prosecutors say the victim had identified Miller, and he was found with her phone. But, the new DNA testing pointed to two other men convicted in the case, not Miller.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Mike O’Malley said, "That's what makes this case so difficult. But one thing is clear: He did not participate in the sexual assault, and we acknowledge that."

So Judge Hollie Gallagher threw out the rape conviction. And prosecutors threw out the other charges.

After a brief court hearing, a crowd of friends and relatives cheered. Miller’s mother, Rita, said, “I feel great. I’m happy. I’m blessed. It’s been a long journey.”

The crowd included Miller’s children he didn’t get to see grow up. He said, now, "Gotta be with them. Gotta be with them.”

Miller is just the latest in a series of local inmates cleared long after getting sent to prison.

So how many more wrongfully convicted prisoners might walk out of the Justice Center? The Ohio Innocence Project says it has helped clear 27 people in 13 years. But lawyers can't get someone out unless there's new evidence and no legal snags. And the Ohio Innocence Project says it has had 10,000 applications from inmates hoping to get a fresh look at their cases.

There to greet Christopher Miller as he went free was Ru-El Sailor. Just weeks ago, Sailor was cleared after a wrongful conviction. He says he had spent time in the same prison as Christopher Miller. He helped some folks pick out some new clothes for Miller. Sailor said, "I didn't even know his size. Just free-styled it. Got him two pair of shoes, two suits. Hopefully, one of them fits.”

For Miller, those are the first steps toward building a new life. He added, his plans are simple. He said, "Join my family. All my friends."

Meantime, as a result of the new DNA testing, new rape charges have been filed against Charles Boyd. He had been convicted in the Cleveland Heights attack case, but only for robbery. Another man is also still serving time for the sex assault.

Continuing coverage.