Appeal earns Miller new trial by Gregory R. Norfleet · News · November 23, 2012
After breaking two procedural rules, a Linn County court left a West Branch man with a “Hobson’s choice” — two bad options — so an appeals court last week granted the man, convicted of killing his 3-month-old daughter, a new trial.
Curtis Antoine Miller, now 33, had asked twice for a mistrial after one of the jurors was allowed by the court to leave for a funeral during deliberations on his case. The Linn County judge then told Miller he could wait as much as a week to see deliberations resume with the same juror, or bring in an alternate juror who had already been allowed to leave.
Miller had been found guilty in May 2009 for the October 2007 death of Kimisha LaShay MaryAnne Miller and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Witnesses testified that Miller, 28 at the time of the incident, was frustrated with Kimisha’s continuous crying and likely slammed her body against a hard surface, fracturing her skull and causing multiple other injuries and bruising. At first he was charged with child endangerment with serious injury, but when she died three weeks later, the charge was increased to first degree murder and child endangerment causing death.
The jury eventually found Miller guilty of involuntary manslaughter, which was merged with the charge of child endangerment resulting in death.
A three-judge Court of Appeals said that by allowing one juror to leave and then return meant the eventual decision of the jury was “fraught with the possibility of outside influence and faded memories.”
The three-judge decision was written by Presiding Judge David Danilson and included a special comment specifically from himself, stating that alternate jurors who had not been involved with the deliberations from the beginning “is not desirable” because they would vote “without the benefit of earlier group discussion.”