Miller v. State , CR–06–0741.

CourtAlabama Court of Criminal Appeals
Writing for the CourtWINDOM, Judge.
Citation63 So.3d 676
PartiesEvan MILLERv.STATE of Alabama.
Decision Date27 August 2010
Docket NumberCR–06–0741.

63 So.3d 676

Evan MILLER
v.
STATE of Alabama.

CR–06–0741.

Court of Criminal Appeals of Alabama.

Aug. 27, 2010.Certiorari Denied Oct. 22, 2010


Alabama Supreme Court 1091663.

[63 So.3d 682]

Bryan A. Stevenson and Randall S. Susskind, Montgomery, for appellant.Troy King, atty. gen., and John M. Porter, asst. atty. gen., for appellee.

On Application for Rehearing
WINDOM, Judge.

This Court's opinion of June 25, 2010, is withdrawn, and the following opinion is substituted therefor.

Evan Miller appeals his conviction of murder made capital because it was committed during the course of an arson, see § 13A–5–40(a)(9), Ala.Code 1975, and his resulting sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. For the reasons that follow, this Court affirms Miller's conviction and sentence.

The evidence presented at trial established that in July 2003, then 14–year–old

[63 So.3d 683]

Evan Miller and his 16–year–old codefendant, Colby Smith, robbed and savagely beat Miller's neighbor, Cole Cannon.1 After beating Cannon to the point that he could not get off the floor, Miller set Cannon's trailer on fire. Cannon's body was later discovered by firefighters, who were called to extinguish the fire.

Colby Smith testified that he became acquainted with Miller during high school and that they had known each other for approximately four or five months before the crime. (R. 979.) On the evening of July 15, 2003, Smith was spending the night at Miller's trailer. Around midnight, Cannon came over complaining that he had burned his food and asking if they had something he could eat. Cannon appeared to have been drinking, and Smith smelled alcohol on his breath and noticed that he was “staggering.” (R. 710, 980.) While Miller's mother was preparing some spaghetti for Cannon, Miller and Smith went over to Cannon's trailer to look for drugs, but they were unable to find any. The two, however, found and stole some of Cannon's baseball trading cards. Miller and Smith then returned to Miller's trailer.

When Cannon finished eating, he returned to his trailer. Miller and Smith then went back to Cannon's trailer intending to get Cannon intoxicated and to steal his money. Miller and Smith smoked a joint and played drinking games with Cannon until he passed out on the couch. While Cannon was unconscious, Miller stole Cannon's wallet and took it into the bathroom where he split a little over $300 with Smith. While Miller was attempting to put the wallet back in Cannon's pocket, Cannon jumped up and grabbed Miller around the throat. Smith, who witnessed the altercation, grabbed a baseball bat and hit Cannon on the head. Miller then climbed onto Cannon and began hitting him in the face with his fists. Despite Cannon's pleas to stop, Miller picked up the bat, which Smith had dropped, and continued to attack Cannon by striking him with it repeatedly.

Afterwards, Miller placed a sheet over Cannon's head and told him, “I am God, I've come to take your life.” (R. 986.) After Miller hit Cannon a final time with the bat, Miller and Smith returned to Miller's trailer. A few minutes later, however, Miller and Smith returned to Cannon's trailer and attempted to clean up the blood. Afterwards, Miller and Smith set several fires to cover up their crime. Initially, Smith used a lighter to start a fire on a couch in the back bedroom, while Miller set another fire on a different couch “to cover up the evidence.” (R. 990.) As they were leaving, Smith saw Cannon “[j]ust laying there.” Feeling sorry for Cannon, Smith placed a towel under his head in an attempt to stop the bleeding. Smith also turned on the faucet in the kitchen sink and stopped it up, hoping that the water would extinguish the fires. As they were leaving Cannon's trailer, Smith heard Cannon asking, “Why are y'all doing this to me?” (R. 990–91.) Approximately 10 minutes later, Smith returned to Cannon's trailer alone. He could hear Cannon coughing but “smoke was coming out and [Miller was] coming behind [him,]” so he returned to the Miller's trailer. (R. 992.)

Firefighters, who were called to the trailer park to extinguish the fire at Cannon's trailer, noticed blood on the coffee table and blood spatters on the wall. This led the firefighters to the discovery of Cannon's body in the hallway leading to

[63 So.3d 684]

the back bedroom. Fire Marshal Richard Montgomery, who conducted the initial investigation, concentrated on the north bedroom where most of the damage from the fire occurred. The investigation was later turned over to Investigator Tim Sandlin of the Sheriff's Department after Fire Marshal Montgomery indicated that the fire was “obviously suspicious.” (R. 796, 798–802.) After talking with Cannon's family members, Investigator Sandlin became aware that certain items, including Cannon's wallet and some trading cards, were missing from the trailer. Cannon's wallet was eventually recovered from underneath the couch in his trailer, but his driver's license was missing. Investigator Sandlin also removed a baseball bat from underneath the couch.

After this discovery, Investigator Sandlin went to Miller's trailer to speak with Miller and his mother, Susan. Susan gave Investigator Sandlin a box of trading cards, and Miller and his mother agreed to ride with him to the sheriff's office to give statements.

At the sheriff's office, Investigator Sandlin obtained basic information from Miller and read him his rights from the juvenile Miranda form, which Miller and his mother both signed before Miller began recounting the events of the night of July 15 and the early morning of July 16. In his statement, Miller initially told Investigator Sandlin that on the evening of July 15, he was at his trailer watching a movie. Although he admitted that Cannon came over to their trailer, he denied going over to Cannon's trailer. Miller also claimed that he did not learn about the fire at Cannon's trailer until the fire department arrived the next morning. However, when Investigator Sandlin asked Miller to begin by describing the morning's events and work backwards to the previous evening, Miller became “frustrated and agitated” and told Investigator Sandlin “to forget all that, that that wasn't true.” (R. 706–07.) Miller then requested that everyone except Investigator Sandlin leave the room. After Miller's mother and juvenile officers left the room, Miller gave Investigator Sandlin another statement, which Sandlin typed up for Miller to read and sign.

In his second statement, Miller explained that, on the evening of July 15, his family was getting ready to go to bed when Cannon came over to use the telephone. While Cannon was at his trailer, Miller went over to Cannon's trailer where he found some trading cards that “looked like they were worth money.” (R. 710.) When Cannon came back to the Millers' trailer around midnight to get something to eat, Miller went to Cannon's trailer to get the cards. Around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., Miller and Smith returned to Cannon's trailer to drink beer. According to Miller, as the evening progressed, Cannon became so intoxicated that he had trouble standing and eventually fell down, hitting his nose and lip on the table. Miller stated that when he tried to assist Cannon, Cannon grabbed him by the throat. Miller said Smith pushed Cannon off of him just as Cannon grabbed a bat and hit Miller on the arm. Smith then grabbed the bat from Cannon and hit Cannon on the arm. Afterwards, Smith threw the bat down and Miller kicked it under the couch. Miller then punched Cannon several times in the face before seeing Cannon's wallet on the floor and taking about $300 in cash and a driver's license. After hearing Miller's mother knock on the front door and tell them that the police were on the way, Miller and Smith ran out the back door. As they were leaving, they could hear Cannon asking, “Why did you do this to me?” (R. 711–12.)

Based on Miller's statement, Investigator Sandlin called Deputy Fire Marshal

[63 So.3d 685]

Lyndon Blaxton to let him know that he had “additional information” on the fire. (R. 806.) As a result, Deputy Blaxton, Investigator Sandlin, and other law-enforcement agents agreed to meet at Cannon's trailer on July 24, 2003, to conduct a full fire investigation. During the investigation, Deputy Blaxton noticed blood spatters on the wall, a table, a pillow, and a towel. (R. 807–08.) Deputy Blaxton also identified four points of origin for the fires, including a large one in the south bedroom, which spread down the hallway; a second one on the bed, which had been completely consumed by fire; a third one on the couch; and a fourth one, which originated from a cushion that had been placed on the floor before being set on fire.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Adam Craig performed the initial external examination on Cannon's body. Because he claimed there was no indication that Cannon's death had resulted from a crime, Dr. Craig did not perform a full autopsy, and he initially ruled that Cannon's death was an accident caused by the inhalation of smoke and soot. After further investigation, however, Investigator Sandlin requested that Cannon's body be exhumed so that a full autopsy could be performed. On August 1, 2003, Dr. Craig performed a full autopsy and discovered several injuries not caused by the fire, including a two-inch contusion to the left side of the forehead caused by blunt force and six rib fractures on both sides of the body. Dr. Craig was also able to determine from hemorrhaging that these injuries occurred before Cannon died. Toxicology analysis showed Cannon's blood-alcohol level to be .216. Based upon these findings, Dr. Craig reaffirmed his initial finding that the cause of Cannon's death was “inhalation of products of combustion,” but added that “multiple blunt force injuries and ethanol intoxication” were contributing factors that made it more difficult for Cannon to breathe in the fire or to escape from the burning trailer. (R. 939–40.)

Deputy Tim...

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48 practice notes
  • Lindsay v. State, CR-15-1061
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • March 8, 2019
    ...trial judge properly refused the charge because the charge was substantially covered by the trial judge's oral charge’)." Miller v. State, 63 So.3d 676, 701 (Ala. Crim. App. 2010). "When reviewing a trial court's jury instructions, we must view them as a whole, not in bits and pieces, and a......
  • Lane v. State, CR–10–1343.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • November 8, 2013
    ...have likely caused confusion considering that Lane admitted to shooting Wright. See Thompson, 153 So.3d at 152 (quoting Miller v. State, 63 So.3d 676, 701 (Ala.Crim.App.2010), quoting in turn Reeves v. State, 807 So.2d 18, 41 (Ala.Crim.App.2000) ) (“ ‘ “Although ... [a] defendant is entitle......
  • Martin v. Symmes, No. 13–3676.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • April 6, 2015
    ...mandatory life sentences without parole for 782 F.3d 942murders committed at age 14. Id. at 2460, 2461, 2462. See also Miller v. State, 63 So.3d 676, 691 (Ala.Crim.App.2010) (affirming Miller's mandatory life sentence); Jackson v. Norris, 2011 Ark. 49, 378 S.W.3d 103, 106 (2011) (declining ......
  • Miller v. Alabama, Nos. 10–9646
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 25, 2012
    ...with it. Miller placed a sheet over Cannon's head, told him " 'I am God, I've come to take your life,' " and delivered one more blow. 63 So.3d 676, 689 (Ala.Crim.App.2010). The boys then retreated to Miller's trailer, but soon decided to return to Cannon's to cover up evidence of their crim......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • Lindsay v. State, CR-15-1061
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • March 8, 2019
    ...trial judge properly refused the charge because the charge was substantially covered by the trial judge's oral charge’)." Miller v. State, 63 So.3d 676, 701 (Ala. Crim. App. 2010). "When reviewing a trial court's jury instructions, we must view them as a whole, not in bits and pieces, and a......
  • Lane v. State, CR–10–1343.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • November 8, 2013
    ...have likely caused confusion considering that Lane admitted to shooting Wright. See Thompson, 153 So.3d at 152 (quoting Miller v. State, 63 So.3d 676, 701 (Ala.Crim.App.2010), quoting in turn Reeves v. State, 807 So.2d 18, 41 (Ala.Crim.App.2000) ) (“ ‘ “Although ... [a] defendant is entitle......
  • Martin v. Symmes, No. 13–3676.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • April 6, 2015
    ...mandatory life sentences without parole for 782 F.3d 942murders committed at age 14. Id. at 2460, 2461, 2462. See also Miller v. State, 63 So.3d 676, 691 (Ala.Crim.App.2010) (affirming Miller's mandatory life sentence); Jackson v. Norris, 2011 Ark. 49, 378 S.W.3d 103, 106 (2011) (declining ......
  • Miller v. Alabama, Nos. 10–9646
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 25, 2012
    ...with it. Miller placed a sheet over Cannon's head, told him " 'I am God, I've come to take your life,' " and delivered one more blow. 63 So.3d 676, 689 (Ala.Crim.App.2010). The boys then retreated to Miller's trailer, but soon decided to return to Cannon's to cover up evidence of their crim......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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