Topeka Pornographic photographs found on the computer of Martin Miller, a Lawrence man who was convicted of killing his wife, were at the center of Miller's appeal Wednesday before the Kansas Supreme Court.
Miller, a carpenter and former Christian-school leader, was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2004 strangulation of Mary Miller, who had worked at a Kansas University library.
He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.
On Wednesday, Miller's attorney, Sarah Ellen Johnson, said the jury in his trial shouldn't have seen the pornographic photos because they were irrelevant to the murder charge against him.
Johnson said the photos, which were allowed by Douglas County District Court Judge Paula Martin, improperly prejudiced the jury against Miller.
But Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said the photos were fairly used to help substantiate the prosecution's theory that Miller killed his wife because he was leading a double life.
Branson was vigorously challenged by Justice Lee Johnson, the newest member of the state Supreme Court.
"He didn't need to kill his wife to pursue that part of his life," the justice said.
But Branson said the photos and testimony about Miller's extramarital affair, juxtaposed to Miller's outward appearance as a conservative Christian, were key to the prosecution's theory of motive.
"These worlds were going to collide," Branson said. "His wife was standing in the way of him pursuing his lifestyle."
According to court arguments, two photos were shown to the jury although thousands were found on Miller's computer.
Branson was also questioned by justices about referring to Miller as "the killer" in his closing arguments to the jury.
Justice Robert Davis said prosecutors aren't supposed to call defendants "killer" until after the person is convicted. "Killer is a pejorative," he said.
But Branson said he had to prove to the jury that a murder occurred and that Miller was the murderer.
"There was no engaging in name-calling," he said.
The court is expected to rule June 8. Miller wants his conviction reversed and to be given a new trial.
Aside from attorneys in the case, Laura Cuthbertson, who married the incarcerated Miller last year, was in the courtroom. She declined to comment after the hearing.
Cuthbertson's testimony at the trial is also in dispute. Miller's defense attorney says her hearsay testimony about Miller's relationships with other women shouldn't have been allowed before the jury.