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After a year in jail, man becomes key witness to Federal Way homicide
The story is something one would expect to hear in Hollywood, but for Glenn Proctor — the 21-year-old Tacoma man recently acquitted of second-degree homicide charges — it is all too real.
Following the shooting death of 38-year-old Darrel Miller at the Federal Way Transit Center on Jan. 18, 2008, police launched a hunt for the woman's killer. Miller was not the intended target of the gunshot, according to court documents. Instead, a male acquaintance whom Proctor had engaged in a fight with in summer 2007 was the intended target, according to the same documents. An eyewitness placed Proctor at the scene and identified him as the shooter. Soon, police were asking the public's help in finding him. Proctor turned himself in to police Feb. 9, shortly after he was named a suspect in the case.
"I wasn't going to run from something I didn't do," Proctor said.
He was released from the Regional Justice Center Jan. 15 after King County prosecutors reviewed new evidence.
"On Dec. 10, we were able to review information provided by the defense and it led us to the conclusion that Proctor is not a suspect in this crime," said Dan Donohoe, King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office spokesman.
Since turning himself in, Proctor has continually claimed his innocence. He pleaded not guilty to the charge Feb. 25, but remained held in jail for nearly a year while his attorneys worked to free him. An investigation of the shooting was recently relaunched following Proctor's release.
Proctor and his lawyers, Diane Zumwalt and Mark Prothero, both criminal defense attorneys, said Proctor was at the transit center that night with his cousin and another man, whose identity has not been released. It is alleged that one of the three shot at the man whom Proctor had previous disagreements with. Police and attorneys are keeping a tight lid on the fine details of the case.
What is known is the target knew Proctor before the shooting. Cell phone photos and low-end videotape taken at the transit center are evidence. When Proctor turned himself in to police, he figured the tape would tell the details of his innocence, he said.
"He kept saying look at the video," Zumwalt said.
Proctor was sure police would view the tape, enhance the video quality, take into consideration the target's grudge against him and question his standing as an eyewitness, he said.
He was wrong. The muddled footage looks more like pixelated blocks than a clear picture of the killer, and an eyewitness is probable cause to hold a person suspected of a crime.
"Some little dude said it was me," Proctor said. "If you're a detective, you're supposed to be real (sic) meticulous."
Zumwalt and Prothero said the witness is either mistaken or lying. They waited months, while police and prosecutors found technology capable of showing the video, before they viewed the incident, Prothero said. They were provided a copy of Proctor's statements to the police, through a previous lawyer, in July and the video in August, he said. After seeing the tape, the attorneys called in an expert in video forensics.
"It was frustrating for us how long it took to get that video," Prothero said. "(The state) had the goods and could have done the work themselves (to have the video forensically analyzed)."
Through math and science, Tom Sandor, an electronics engineer at Envision Digital, was able to prove Proctor's innocence. Sandor cleaned up the video footage as best he could, then measured the distance between points on the shooter's and Proctor's faces. The shooter's forehead is larger than Proctor's. This, as well as other evidence Zumwalt said she is unable to disclose, prompted Proctor's release.
"That guy came through," Proctor said. "I need to shake his hand or something."
The whole scenario has been frustrating for Proctor and his legal team.
"I had to prove it wasn't me," Proctor said. "Instead of innocent until proven guilty, I was guilty until proven innocent."
The process took 11 months. While in jail, Proctor read and thought about music, fashion, art and pursuing schooling for a business degree. He tried to stay positive and remain composed. Zumwalt and Prothero routinely assured him they would clear his name.
"I'm so appreciative that he was absolutely kind and respectful through this process," Zumwalt said.
The situation was strenuous. Even people in jail assumed Proctor committed the crime, he said.
"2008, that was a whole year gone," Proctor said. "I can't get no time back. I spent my 21st birthday in jail."
But the last chapter of Proctor's story is still being written. He is now a witness in the case. The former charges against him will be publicly remembered. Anyone can Google his name and the words "second-degree murder" pop up, he said. Stereotypes come into play as well. Proctor was in the company of a man that possessed a firearm, but he asserts he did not know the man personally and has no ties to a gang.
"I'm not a gang member," Proctor said. "I'm too old to be trying to be in a gang. I'm too much of an individual to be in a gang."
He knows a thing or two about why a young person may choose that lifestyle. They lack self-esteem and feel they need a membership to achieve status, he told Zumwalt. They have something to prove, Proctor said. And access to firearms is all too easy, Prothero said.
"A lot of people think they have a lot to prove," Proctor said. "These dudes over here shooting for no reason, they have a lot to prove."
Proctor said he wants to go to school and get a job. He is cautious of who he is associating with now. He wishes he would have told onlookers and the media, upon his release from jail, that he is not the shooter, he said.
"I'm a good guy; I didn't do it," he said.
The case can be summed up simply for Proctor: "Wrong place, wrong time, wrong people," he said.
The only thing to do now is move forward and try to make up for lost time.
"I'm not angry — no animosity," Proctor said.
The investigation is ongoing. Legal avenues to achieve compensation for Proctor's time served are not being ruled out, Prothero said. The case is one of numerous Prothero has taken on or appointed to, such as in the case of Gary Ridgway, also known as the Green River Killer.
"I'll remember 2008 for the Glenn Proctor case," Prothero said.