PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland man who has been in prison for the past 25 years for a 1997 crime has been freed due to evidence that dismissed a separate case from 1994.
According to the Oregon Innocence Project, Danyale Gill was just 18 years old when he was found guilty of a crime he alleged he didn’t commit in 1994.
When a non-fatal shooting happened that year, the organization said Portland’s police chief lost sight of the actual perpetrator and “claimed to recognize Mr. Gill by his build and clothing rather than his face” when he saw Gill in the area.
OIP reported that Gill maintained his innocence from the beginning, telling officers that he was with his uncle just before the shooting and asking investigators to conduct a gunshot residue test.
In the ensuing trial, which the victim wasn’t present for, OIP claims that the prosecutor referred to Gill and other residents as ‘young thugs shooting bullets at one another.’
“The prosecutor said to the nearly all-white jury that they might think that gun crime ‘is something that’s happening amongst young black gang members and…it’s not going to affect us. But that would be wrong. It happens everywhere and it’s coming [to] your community.’” Oregon’s Innocence Project alleged.
Gill was then convicted of attempted murder, second-degree assault and unlawful use of a firearm. According to OIP, witnesses and the shooting victim confirmed that Gill wasn’t responsible for the crime at his sentencing, but the judge ordered him to serve three years in prison.
Upon his release from prison in 1997, Gill returned to Portland and lived in his vehicle. During a traffic stop, OIP said the Portland man tried to evade officers in his vehicle before attempting to escape on foot and shooting a gun in their direction.
Gill was then convicted on two counts of first-degree attempted assault, in addition to drug charges and penalties for fleeing from police.
According to OIP, his sentence for the 1997 crime was extended due to his conviction in the 1994 crime. Gill was ordered to serve another prison sentence from 1998 through 2042 because he had previously been ruled a “dangerous offender.”
It wasn’t until 2007 that Gill obtained two affidavits connected to the original case: one from a person who confessed to committing the 1994 crime and another from someone who confessed to initiating the incident with the victim. However, OIP said Gill’s motion for a new trial was denied.
When the organization took over Gill’s case in 2018, the victims, witnesses and Gill’s uncle all affirmed that he was innocent. A DNA expert also claimed that the evidence used against the Portland man was ‘presented to the jury in a very misleading manner.’
OIP worked to dismiss Gill’s initial conviction and reduce his 1998 sentence to time served.
In a statement to KOIN 6, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said its Justice Integrity Unit manages all post-conviction relief claims.
“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,” the office said. “We did not opine as to Mr. Gill’s innocence.”
The Portland Police Bureau ‘respectfully’ declined to comment on the case.
Oregon’s Innocence Project said Gill plans to pursue an education and his passion for writing now that he’s released.
“I’m just glad to be free,” Gill said in a statement. “It’s been a long time coming, I’m relieved it’s finally here and now I want to enjoy it.”