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Archive for Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Miller trial begins today

June 14, 2005

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Testimony begins today in the case of a carpenter and former Lawrence Christian school trustee charged with first-degree murder in the death last summer of his wife.

Prosecutors and a defense attorney for Martin Miller, 46, spent most of Monday selecting jurors and participating in a hearing to determine the status of one last potential witness.

During that hearing, Douglas County Judge Paula Martin ruled that a minister formally interviewed just last week by Lawrence Police could only be called as a rebuttal witness.

Miller's attorney, Mark Manna, objected to allowing the Rev. Leo Barbee as a prosecution witness.

Manna told the judge he only received information about the police interview Friday, which was past the May 31 deadline for attorneys to file such information.

"I'm going to object to that evidence," Manna said.

Moreover, Manna noted that some conversations between Barbee, pastor at Victory Bible Church where Martin Miller was a member, might fall under pastor and parishioner confidentiality.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Charles Branson said police interviewed Barbee on Thursday. He also said he didn't control the pace of a police investigation. Branson and Assistant Dist. Atty. Brandon Jones said they had not decided how Barbee might be used as a possible trial witness. Much of the information gleamed from Barbee was already known, Branson said.

If Barbee is called as a rebuttal witness, a hearing outside of the jury's presence may be necessary before the testimony to determine whether any of the potential testimony might be confidential, Judge Martin said.

The hearing about Barbee came after defense and prosecuting attorneys questioned dozens of people summoned as potential jurors. In the end eight women and six men were selected for the jury. Two of them will hear testimony as alternates.

To help with the jury selection process, the court sent questionnaires prepared by attorneys to about 100 people. Answers to those questions helped attorneys narrow their final questioning Monday to more than 40 people. The trial is expected to take about two weeks, attorneys said.

On July 28, 2004, police and medical personnel were called to the Miller residence at 2105 Carolina St.

Martin Miller told them he'd found his wife lying dead in bed. Police initially found no signs of foul play, but the results of a coroner's autopsy revealed that Mary Miller had died of suffocation.

Martin Miller, who worked from a shop next to his home and served as a trustee on the board at Veritas Christian School, was arrested and charged a few days after his wife's death. Mary Miller was a technology coordinator for Watson Library's reference department at Kansas University.

Prosecutors intend to show that Martin Miller killed his wife so he'd be free to pursue sexual relationships with other women.

Manna is expected to argue that Miller had no motive to kill his wife because she already knew her husband was having an affair.

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