Archive for Friday, February 14, 2014

Murder conviction of former Lawrence carpenter Martin Miller overturned by Kansas Supreme Court

February 14, 2014, 10:41 a.m. Updated February 14, 2014, 6:39 p.m.


Martin Miller is led away after being convicted of his wife's murder in Judge Paula Martin's courtroom.

Martin Miller is led away after being convicted of his wife's murder in Judge Paula Martin's courtroom.

Related document

Miller v. State ( .PDF )

Martin Miller, who was convicted of murder in the 2004 slaying of his wife, Mary Miller, will get a new trial.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday overturned his conviction based on an incorrect written jury instruction.

“Our office will review the decision and prepare to try Miller again for the death of his wife. Our hearts are heavy for the Miller children who will be called upon to testify again,” said Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson.

Branson added, “Prior appellate courts found the evidence against Martin Miller was overwhelming.”

No date has been scheduled for the new trial.

Miller was convicted of first-degree murder for the July 28, 2004, death of Mary 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 wanted to collect $300,000 in life insurance.

But in a unanimous decision Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court said the written jury instruction given by Douglas County District Court Judge Paula Martin in the trial was in error.

The court said that the written instruction about reasonable doubt substituted the words “each” for “any” and found that substantially changed the meaning to Miller’s detriment.

“The written instruction given at Miller’s trial was erroneous because it told the jury to acquit Miller only if it had a reasonable doubt as to every element of Miller’s first-degree murder charge rather than a reasonable doubt as to a single element. And in doing so, it did not correctly describe the standard that the jury was required to apply in finding Miller guilty or not guilty,” wrote Justice Dan Biles.

Miller had been a carpenter and Christian school leader in Lawrence.

Attempts to reach his parents for comment were unsuccessful.

In 2007, the Kansas Supreme Court had upheld the earlier direct appeal of Miller’s guilty verdict. In 2012, a Kansas Court of Appeals panel said Miller should get a new trial because of the errors in the jury instructions.

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 some kind of attack and went to comfort her before she died.

Judge Martin had sentenced him to serve 25 years to life in prison. Martin is currently incarcerated in the Lansing Correctional Facility.

— Giles Bruce contributed to this story.


Terry Lee 4 years, 3 months ago

Christian? Pfffftttt.....although these days the term Christian refers to all manner of those derelict of mind...

Rae Hudspeth 4 years, 3 months ago

I think in this case it is the school that is a Christian school, not that Martin was a school leader who was a Christian.

Bob Forer 4 years, 3 months ago

This is why many people love Christianity because they are told from day one that they are all "sinners" but nonetheless get a free pass as long as they "believe."

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I didn't even have to look this up, it was drilled into our heads in Sunday school:

John Chapter 3, verse 16:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

But I wondered way back when what that really meant. Does it mean anyone that believes He ever actually existed? Or does it mean anyone that believes His teachings? It doesn't really say that you have to follow His teachings in your daily life in that verse.

So, in that verse, Bob is certainly right, it sounds like a free pass in that actions are not necessary to be "saved" from Hell, which is a new thing in the New Testament. It is not mentioned at all in the Old Testament, so it must not have existed then, right? The Hebrew word "Sheol" which appears 65 times in the Tanakh (Old Testament, but the books are in a different order) does NOT mean Hell, it means something like this:
"The state of the dead, whatever it is, of which we know nothing."

Although there is this: James Chapter 2, verse 17:
"So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."

Although Jesus didn't say that, it's not from one of the Gospels. That was a later interpretation of the teachings of Jesus.

My argument from years ago is that having faith will inspire you to become a better person, and that trying to be a better person will not bring about faith in you. I am sure that whatever faith you follow or don't follow won't make any difference when the final curtain falls for you.

This is from the Gospels, and is attributed to Jesus Christ:
Matthew Chapter 12, verse 36:
"I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter;"

That sounds like a direct contradiction of the free pass theology to me! I think that's an illustration of how the Bible, and other religious books, can be interpreted in many different ways. It all depends upon which verses you were taught were the most important.

(Biblical translations are Revised Standard Version.)

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

"Miller,,, a (former) Christian school leader"

“I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
(However, that quote is disputed so it may be apocryphal, and at the moment, Mr. Miller stands unconvicted.)

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 years, 3 months ago

I used to know Marty Miller and did business with his former company. I cannot believe that he is guilty andbelieve that the District Attourney would go to any legnth to gain a conviction in this case. As for the Christian stuff, that really has no place in this story, an innocent man was wrongly convicted.

Fred Mion 4 years, 3 months ago

So once again, Paula Martin screws up. WHY is she still on the bench?

Bob Forer 4 years, 3 months ago

I don't know much about Judge Martin, but I do find it perplexing that she would issue a reasonable doubt jury instruction that did not track, word-for-word, the Pattern Jury Instructions suggested by the Kansas Judicial Council. With very rare exception, those pattern instructions have withstood the test of time, and the chances of a pattern instruction being reversed on appeal are slim to none.

I am also curious as to why the prosecution did not notice the mistake in the instructions and request that the court simply track the language of the pattern instructions.

My guess is that he will still probably be convicted at a second trial, but with the pasage of ten years, memories become cloudy, witnesses are sometimes no longer available, evidence is lost or destroyed, etc. It certainly won't be easier to obtain a conviction the second time around, and most likely we be more difficult.

Leslie Swearingen 4 years, 3 months ago

I would like to say that when I joined the Catholic Church as an older adult, I was told among the most important things are compassion, understanding and patience. After all the Our Father does say, "forgive us our trasspasses as we forgive others."

We certainly do not get a free pass but have standards that we are expected to live by. Let us not villify anyone by the group they belong to but rather gather information and then talk to people from that group and see them as the individuals they are, create friendships between different groups whether the difference be religious, racial or cultural.

I have no idea whether he is guilty or not, there is no way I could know, but I do wonder about Judge Martins decision to word her instructions that way.

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