Miller v. State

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

63 So.3d 676

STATE of Alabama.


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This Court's opinion of June 25, 2010, is withdrawn, and the following opinion is substituted therefor.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

To continue reading

Request your trial
44 cases
  • Lindsay v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 8 Marzo 2019
    ... ... Crim. App. 2000) (citations and quotations omitted). See also Riley v. State , 875 So.2d 352, 358 (Ala. Crim. App. 2003) (holding that the 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 as a reasonable juror would have interpreted them." Johnson v. State , 820 So.2d 842, 874 (Ala. Crim. App. 2000). There were no ... ...
  • In re Wilson
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • 22 Enero 2015
    ... ... Derrick Lynn Wilson seeks habeas relief asserting, among other contentions, 182 Cal.Rptr.3d 776 that pursuant to the principles announced in Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. , 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 ( Miller ), the life imprisonment without parole (LWOP) sentence he received in 1996 ... statute by interpreting its terms or (2) alter the range of conduct or the class of persons covered by the statute and place them beyond the State's power to punish. ( Schriro, supra, 542 U.S. at pp. 351342, 124 S.Ct. 2519.) Included within the second category are rules prohibiting a certain ... ...
  • Woodward v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 16 Diciembre 2011
    ... ... "(2) Offer of Proof ... In case the ruling is one excluding evidence, the substance of the evidence was made known to the court by offer or was apparent from the context within which questions were asked." Rule 103(a)(2), Ala. R. Evid. This Court reviewed a similar issue in Miller v. State , 63 So. 3d 676 (Ala. Crim. App. 2010), when Miller argued that the trial court erred when it prohibited him from eliciting testimony about his mental state from two witnesses. We Page 18 rejected Miller's claim because he failed to make an offer of proof, and we explained: "Rule 103(a), ... ...
  • State v. Draper
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • 13 Septiembre 2011
    ... ... State, 50 So.3d 633, 63435 (Fla.Dist.Ct.App.2010) ; State v. Twyman, No. 9707012195, 2010 WL 4261921, at *2 (Del.Super.Ct. Oct. 19, 2010) ; Lotts v. Purkett, No. 4: 07CV610 RWS, 2010 WL 2653636, at *1 (E.D.Mo. June 29, 2010) ; Miller v. Alabama, 63 So.3d 676, 691 (Ala.Crim.App.2010). We hold that Draper's fixed life sentence does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the United States Constitution. 3. The Idaho Constitution's Prohibition on Cruel and Unusual Punishment Draper further argues that, even if the ... ...
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT