NJ Innocence Project at Rutgers Helps Exonerate Man After 20 Years of Wrongful Incarceration

By Laura Cohen, Rutgers Law Professor and New Jersey Innocence Project Director

The New Jersey Innocence Project at Rutgers University (NJIP) has helped
exonerate a Hudson County man who served 20 years for a crime he did not
commit. Dion Miller, now age 54, was released from prison on July 27. He
was represented by NJIP Director, Professor Laura Cohen [1], and Managing
Attorney, Nyssa Taylor. Miller was wrongfully convicted of the
murder of Romeo Cavero in 2007 and sentenced to a term of 30 years in
prison without the possibility of parole.

Miller’s conviction was based entirely on three false confessions
that detectives obtained after subjecting him to 17 hours of grueling and
coercive interrogation. Those statements were inconsistent with each other
and inconsistent with the other evidence in the case, and bore many of the
known hallmarks of false confessions. Miller steadfastly pursued every
available legal avenue to establish his innocence over two decades, often
without the benefit of legal representation.

Earlier this year, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Conviction Review
Unit launched an extensive reinvestigation of the case and concluded
that Miller was innocent of the crime. The Unit joined in the NJIP’s
motion for a new trial, which Hudson County Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez
granted. The Attorney General’s Office then moved for a dismissal of the
indictment with prejudice. Miller’s exoneration is the second sought
by the Unit since its formation in 2019.

“Mr. Miller, his family, and the New Jersey Innocence Project at Rutgers
University are deeply grateful to Attorney General Platkin, Director
Murray, and the entire team of the Conviction Review Unit for their
vigorous, thorough, and thoughtful work on this case, and for their
determination to correct this grave injustice,” said Professor Cohen.
“We hope that the lessons learned from this matter, particularly with
regard to the causes and frequency of false confessions, will lead to
exonerations of other innocent people and help prevent future wrongful
convictions from occurring in New Jersey.”

Officially launched in 2022 under the aegis of the Rutgers Criminal and
Youth Justice Clinic, the NJIP represents factually innocent people in
New Jersey in their efforts to vacate their wrongful convictions and obtain
their freedom from incarceration. It is the first New Jersey affiliate of
the National Innocence Network.