By Connor McCarthy
PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — A Portland man is celebrating his freedom 25 years after a wrongful conviction in the mid-1990s enhanced how long he would spend behind bars.
For more than two decades, Danyale Gill sat in an Oregon prison on a 44-year sentence. Though he was in prison for a crime that he committed in 1998, it was a wrongful conviction in 1994 that enhanced his time in prison.
“When they arrested me, I was like ‘What did I do?’ They were like, ‘Well the police chief saw you do a shooting,’” Gill said.
According to Gill’s lawyers, then-Portland Police Chief, Charles Moose, was in the area at the time of a 1994 shooting incident. He claimed Gill was responsible for shooting at another man in Northeast Portland. Gill claimed he had an alibi for his whereabouts. We reached out to Portland Police for comment about this, but they respectfully declined.
“I knew everything was made up, everything was fabricated,” Gill said.
He was found guilty of attempted murder by a non-unanimous jury.
“I lost life completely the way that I knew it and it was done intentionally,” Gill said. “That was the part I couldn’t get over.”
When Gill was released, three years later, he said it was hard for him to transition back into society.
“I was also mad, like really enraged about going to prison and I was like ‘okay, how can I get back at society?’” Gill said. “I was like, ‘Okay I’ll sell drugs.’”
The Oregon Innocence Project tells us that one year after being released, he was living in his car when he was stopped by police. He fled on foot and shot at police. He was found guilty by another non-unanimous jury. Due to the guilty verdict from his prior conviction, he was considered a “dangerous offender.” This sentencing enhancement led to Gill receiving a 44-year sentence.
“I felt like this sentence is unjust because it’s based on something I did not do in the past,” Gill said.
That’s where the Oregon Innocence Project stepped in. Alex Meggitt, a staff attorney with the OIP, picked up Gill’s case.
“He wrote to us about his 1994 case,” Meggitt said. “We reviewed the document he sent us and some of his original trial material and we thought he had a credible claim of innocence that was worth investigating further.”
Meggitt said after months of talking to witnesses, obtaining an affidavit from the person who said he was the shooter in the 1994 case, and working with the District Attorney’s Office’s Justice Integrity Unit, a Multnomah County Judge agreed to release Gill from prison on Sept. 22. He walked free nearly a week later. The judge also ordered a dismissal of the 1994 conviction. The 1998 sentence was resolved by a plea of time served, according to Meggitt. The District Attorney’s Office sent FOX 12 a statement:
“In this case, we agreed that the convictions in Mr. Gill’s 1994 case could be dismissed as part of a global resolution with his 1998 case. We did not opine as to Mr. Gill’s innocence.”
“Not only are you helping individuals who have been wrongfully convicted but you’re also pointing out systemic errors that enabled the wrongful convictions in the first place,” Meggitt said.
“If it’s done intentionally, you can’t forgive something that’s done intentionally,” Gill said. “Accident you can forgive. It was an accident. But when it’s done intentionally, how do you forgive that when you’re life has been turned upside down completely.”
Gill currently has housing and plans on looking for a job. He also is pursuing his interests such as getting an education in starting a small business.
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