Pulitzer Winner Gene Miller Dies at 76

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Former Miami Herald reporter and editor Gene Miller, won two Pulitzer Prizes for stories that led to the release of four people wrongly convicted of murder, died Friday. He was 76.

Miller died at his home near South Miami after suffering from cancer, his family told the Herald for a story posted on its Web site.

“He was the soul and the conscience of our newsroom, a somber place the day he died,” Herald reporter Martin Merzer wrote. “He coached novice reporters. He turned butter-fingered writers into prize winners. He challenged senior editors when he thought they were wrong, which was pretty often.”

Miller worked at the Herald for 48 years, retiring in 2001. His first Pulitzer was in 1967 for two investigations that freed prisoners Joe Shea and Mary Katherin Hampton, who were convicted of separate murders they didn’t commit.

He won his second Pulitzer in 1976 after eight years of reporting about the case of Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee. The two were sentenced to death in 1963 after being convicted of the murders of two gas station attendants in the Florida Panhandle town of Port St. Joe.

A third man ended up confessing, and a polygraph expert told Miller about the case. The Herald eventually published 130 articles about the case, most by Miller. He reported that police officers had no evidence, so they beat confessions out of Pitts and Lee.

The attention ultimately led state Attorney General Robert Shevin and Gov. Reubin Askew to free Pitts and Lee in 1975.

Miller was born in Evansville, Ind., on Sept. 16, 1928. He graduated from Indiana University.

Survivors include his wife, Caroline Heck Miller, and four children from a previous marriage.

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