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Archive for Friday, February 10, 2012

Kansas Court of Appeals rules Martin Miller should get new murder trial

In this 2007 file photo, Martin Miller is led away after being convicted of his wife's murder in Judge Paula Martin's courtroom.

In this 2007 file photo, Martin Miller is led away after being convicted of his wife's murder in Judge Paula Martin's courtroom.

February 10, 2012

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A Kansas Court of Appeals panel has ruled a former Lawrence carpenter and Christian school leader convicted of killing his wife should get a new trial based on errors in the jury instructions at his 2005 trial.

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said prosecutors would ask the Kansas Supreme Court to review the recent decision in Martin K. Miller’s case before they prepare for a second trial.

“We are heartbroken for the Millers’ children and others affected by this case,” Branson said. “If our appeal is unsuccessful, we will retry Martin Miller for the first-degree murder of Mary Miller and again seek a life sentence.”

A Douglas County jury convicted Miller of first-degree murder for the July 28, 2004, death of his wife, Mary E. Miller, 46, at the family’s central Lawrence home. Prosecutors accused Miller of strangling his wife in her sleep because he had been having an affair with another woman and he wanted to collect $300,000 life insurance money.

District Judge Paula Martin sentenced him to serve 25 years to life in prison.

According to the unpublished opinion filed Feb. 3, a three-judge panel determined an error in jury instructions about reasonable doubt transposed the words “each” and “any” and found the switch changed the meaning of an instruction and “materially disadvantaged” Miller.

The instructions Martin gave the jurors stated they must find Miller not guilty if they have reasonable doubt about the truth of “each” claim prosecutors were required to prove and that they should find him guilty if they have no reasonable doubt as to the truth of “any of the claims” required to be proved.

“The transposition turns proof beyond a reasonable doubt inside out and permits the state to convict with patently insufficient evidence,” the opinion reads.

The panel who issued the opinion included Chief Judge Richard Greene and Judge G. Gordon Atcheson.

The Kansas Supreme Court in 2007 upheld the earlier direct appeal of Miller’s guilty verdict.

This appellate case was actually an appeal of a civil case Miller had filed against the state alleging his constitutional rights were violated during the trial and he was wrongfully imprisoned because his assistance from counsel in the case was ineffective. The court of appeals panel in this decision found his previous attorney on the earlier appeal was ineffective for not finding and raising the jury instruction issue.

“The error so undermined Miller’s constitutional rights that controlling authority from the United States Supreme Court requires he be granted a new trial,” the judges wrote in the opinion.

In this new appeal, Lawrence attorney Jessica Kunen represented Miller, who is now an inmate at Lansing Correctional Facility. Kunen could not be reached for comment Friday.

Miller, who was also a board member at Veritas Christian School, had told jurors in the trial he was sleeping in another room when he heard Mary Miller, a Kansas University librarian, having an unknown attack and went to comfort her before she died.

Branson said prosecutors were still comfortable with the conviction.

“I have no doubt that the jury reached the correct opinion in this case,” Branson said. “Having personally talked to some of the jurors after the trial, I believe they had no doubt in their verdict.”

Comments

Steve Jacob 2 years, 10 months ago

This is just terrible and I hope District Judge Paula Martin gets some part of punishment for this!

Bob Forer 2 years, 10 months ago

i wonder if this was a typographical error or if the judge intentionally changed the Pattern Jury Instructions which are used in 99% of the criminal trials. In either event, a mistake that could have been avoided. First, be sure to proof read. Second, why deviate from the standard instructions which are pre-approved by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Bob Forer 2 years, 10 months ago

Jessica Kunen is a fine appellate attorney. Apparently the appellate defender's office missed the jury instruction argument when writing the initial appeal and Jessica found it and filed a successful 60-1507. Jessica spent many years heading up the Appellate Defender's Office and is perhaps the best criminal appellate attorney in Kansas.

dozer 2 years, 10 months ago

Even a blind squirrel like Kunen finds a nut every now and then. It doesn't mean she's the best appellate attorney in Kansas. Clearly you've never watched her argue.

fundamental 2 years, 10 months ago

That is some kind of horrible typo. Shame on the prosecutors, the defense attorneys, and the judge in the case. DA Branson can appeal to the Supreme Court, but there's no way it gets overturned. That's a terrible error and absolutely changes the burden of proof the jury had to evaluate.

Christine Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

Oh dear God, no. Here we go again. Damn you, Marty, can't accept responsibility for your actions, so you are willing to put your children through the horror of having to testify again? I have often thought of the children in the years since their mother was murdered, and hope and pray that they have begun to find some healing and that their lives may move forward. Now this. Hmmmm, must put this so very carefully. I hope that in the next trial, the prosecution is allowed to use everthing, and I mean everything that this swine is addicted to, and everything that was heard by persons in the home the night this tragedy occurred.

Mr. Branson, please make sure Martin Miller does not escape justice.

overthemoon 2 years, 10 months ago

agree completely. knew the family and he was bat-s**t crazy long before he killed his wife. Arrogant, self aggrandizing, narcissist masquerading as a 'Christian'.

Jean Robart 2 years, 10 months ago

baloney! Doesn't change the fact that he messed around with another woman, or that he killed his wife. Too bad the appeals court set this situation back.

begin60 2 years, 10 months ago

That misstated set of instructions is an enormous error to make! KU law graduates obviously have different ideas of due process under the law as well as lower standards of conscience and ethics than the majority of people I would care to be associated with. Just not great standards of facts and accuracy!! Prosecutorial misconduct and conflict-of-interest are rampant among Douglas County law enforcement. Before they starting pointing vengeful fingers of blame they really need to check that their own hands are clean.

tecuani 2 years, 10 months ago

Lame, take your misguided and unfounded criticisms of the Douglas County DA and LEO elsewhere. This has ZERO to do with the prosecutors or the cops in this situation and everything to do with the District Court, which, if you had ANY sense you would know, is part of the State of Kansas.

Christine Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

ProudDad 2 years, 10 months ago

Ok, file your comments now and get it over with about the fact that I'm commenting... Really, do the same people really feel that their comments are so important they must comment on virtually every story? And they must feel that the rest of the world is a bunch of incompetent dolts. Give it a rest folks...not everything needs your opinion. Now...start the slamming!

Neomarxist123 2 years, 10 months ago

No. Miller's wife got no due process. Victims never do.

I think it is arrogant of the Appeals Court to assume the jury really didn't understand Miller was innocent until proven guilty - and they needed to believe he was guilty of all the charges to find him so.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 10 months ago

"Miller's wife got no due process."

And her death was treated as a crime. Do you not understand the difference between a crime and a criminal proceeding against an alleged criminal? (rhetorical question)

"I think it is arrogant of the Appeals Court to assume the jury really didn't understand Miller was innocent until proven guilty "

Given the judges instructions directly to the contrary, it's you who are doing the assuming.

My wholly irrelevant opinion is the Miller is guilty, and should spend the rest of his life in prison, but he still deserved a fair trial.

Tradways 2 years, 10 months ago

We used to until our senate/congress passed the NDAA and Obama signed it that allows American citizens to be arrested and held without a hearing indefinitely.

Tradways 2 years, 10 months ago

We used to until our senate/congress passed the NDAA and Obama signed it that allows American citizens to be arrested and held without a hearing indefinitely.

unimaginable 2 years, 10 months ago

Marty, your selfishness ignores the Cruelty of creating situations that intentionally bring unbearable pain by reliving the horrible nightmare of their mother Mary's murder. Have they not suffurred enough at your hands? You will be once again parading your sexual bondage photos, mistress "commitment photos" and most importantly their mother Mary's morgue photos showing her tiny body dissected. It is unimaginable for one who claims to professes his love for his former children and murdered wife. Justice is not served by not Protecting the innocent victims. Two innocent children heard the strangled cries of their desperate mother crying out to" please stop!" As one who professed Jesus Christ as his Savior your hypocrisy shames the one you claim to worship by once again revealing your double life.

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 10 months ago

Another example of religion teaching morals.

Christine Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

Unimaginable, you put it perfectly. Judging by (clears throat) the rather rotten fruit in Marty Miller's life........ Pity the children.

2 years, 10 months ago

What they didn't mention in this article. In additional to "former Lawrence carpenter and Christian school leader" add to that "guy that liked to photo himself and his mistress wearing leather underwear and adding the photos to the internet." Guy is a total creep that needs to rot in jail the rest of his life.

verity 2 years, 10 months ago

Whatever you think of the defendant, we are a nation of laws and they must be followed or none of us are safe.

That said, this seems to be a pretty big screw up and certainly a costly one.

yourworstnightmare 2 years, 10 months ago

God told him to be a sexually deviant murderer.

parco814 2 years, 10 months ago

Are you kidding? There have been people on death row for decades before being exonerated by DNA evidence, but you only just now realized that the wheels tend to turn slowly?

Another way of looking at it is this--just because these things take a long time doesn't mean the system is broken. Our system is thorough and deliberate, and for all its flaws, I'll take it over any other nation's.

parco814 2 years, 10 months ago

Friends, before you lose it entirely, do keep in mind that the DA is appealing this. Let's hope, as he says, that the appeal is successful. If it isn't, then the system has to deal with Miller. As disgusting as that is, and as revolting as he is, the alternative of a justice system that doesn't allow for multiple appeals, as ours does, would be even worse.

irvan moore 2 years, 10 months ago

i'm betting on branson, i think his office will work very hard to make sure justice is done in this case

Jayhawk1958 2 years, 10 months ago

I know people who know the Miller family well, and they claim that the death was accidental.

BlackVelvet 2 years, 10 months ago

....and Ed McMahon will show up on your front porch with a check!

Bob Forer 2 years, 10 months ago

Please don't speak for me. I have no checks to give.

maybeso 2 years, 10 months ago

Jayhawk, that might be hysterically funny if it weren't so revolting and shamefully disrespectful to the kids. They know exactly what they heard that night.

Christine Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

Even after his conviction, there was a schism among people who knew the Millers. Yes, it is difficult and horrible to accept that "one of your own flock" could do something like this, but those who continue to stick their heads in the sand are delaying their own healing. Those children were NOT lying or imagining what they heard! Accident my backside. The coroner's report sure as heck blew the "accident" theory out of the water.

It's about an individual being able to pull sheep's wool over his wolf eyes. Look at the photo of Miller. Evil and an empty soul behind them. Not one stinkin' ounce of remorse. The expression reveals a man who is not sorry-just sorry he got caught.

onthejourney 2 years, 10 months ago

I moved away from Lawrence before this horrible event happened. I am shocked and horrified that there was a technicality which allows this case to be retried. Now Mary's family, her children, friends, and the community will get dragged back through this muck at taxpayer's expenses.

I have only one question in all this. If the marriage was SO bad, why didn't he have the balls to just divorce his wife? It's not the "unpardonable sin"! That's what you get for being bound to a man-made, shame-based religion rather than true relationship with Jesus.

My heart goes out to all of you who were friends of Mary, to her family, and to her childern.

deec 2 years, 10 months ago

I imagine he wanted to maintain the facade of being a good Christian family man. His family were props in his public image with his co-religionists. Meanwhile, he was free to do whatever he wanted with his mistress. I was married to one of these uber-religious hypocrites. That's how they think. It is kind of like the newt saying it didn't matter what he did because he was so terribly important.

onthejourney 2 years, 10 months ago

deec - It's called the sin of self protection.

deec 2 years, 10 months ago

In the ex's case, it's called sociopathy.

verity 2 years, 10 months ago

Search LJW for online articles on Martin Miller---there are plenty. I recall it being reported at the time that he said he wouldn't be able to remain on the board of the christian school where his children attended if he divorced or still be able to hold offices at his church.

Apparently appearance is all.

onthejourney 2 years, 10 months ago

Yes, I've read those articles. The approval of men is more important than the approval of God. That's what religion has given us...rules and regulations. Then we miss the boat just like the Pharisees did and focus on behavior rather than relationship. Jesus was all about relationship.

Christine Anderson 2 years, 10 months ago

You and the poster before you hit it right on the button! The pastor knew about his addicition to porn, but he remained in "office". And on the board of the school. Guess what-the first Sunday after Mary died, we were all ordered from the pulpit not to talk about it. At her funeral, a letter from Marty was read that sounded like a grieving husband saying glowing things about his wife. It was sickening, because it was as if we were all pretending it didn't happen the way it happened.

onthejourney 2 years, 10 months ago

There's a phenomenon called "cognitive dissonance" I'm reading about. The book is Mistakes Were Make (but not my me) Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. Cognitive dissonance stems from self-justification (i.e. the sin of self protection) whichs "allows us to create a distinction between our moral lapses and someone else's, and to blur the discrepancy between our actions and our moral convictions." Politicians do it, company executives do it, churches do it, we all do it. Do as I say and not as I do. I will justify my actions in my own mind so that I'm not in conflict (dissonance) with my own ideas, attitudes, beliefs, or opinions. As a result, we don't live lives of truth, and we don't even realize it. Instead we toot our own horn on grounds of being morally higher than those around us. Sounds like Adam blaming Eve as he sunk his teeth into the apple.

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