Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Evan Miller of 'Miller v. Alabama' fame will spend the rest of his life in prison

Evan Miller, the Alabama prisoner whose plea before the U.S. Supreme Court gave hope to others across the nation of one day getting paroled for murders they committed as juveniles, won’t get that chance himself.

Lawrence County Circuit Judge Mark Craig on Tuesday afternoon re-sentenced Miller to life without parole for his capital murder conviction in the 2003 brutal slaying of Cole Cannon. Miller was 14 years old at the time, according to AL.Com. The hearing was held via Zoom with Miller appearing remotely from prison due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In resentencing him to life without parole, the judge said he did consider Miller’s past exposure to violence; a history that he and two siblings were abused, beaten, and whipped; his use of drugs; and his mental health history, that included multiple suicide attempts - one attempt early as age of 5 or 6 years old.

Miller was 14 at the time of Cannon’s death in 2003 and spent several year in jail awaiting trial. His attorneys have said he is the youngest child ever sentenced to life without parole in the state of Alabama. He is represented in his appeals by the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative.

In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juvenile killers can’t be sentenced to death. That left many states, including Alabama, with only one option for sentencing juveniles convicted of capital murder - life with no chance at parole.

Because that sentence was in essence automatic - or mandatory - for juveniles convicted of capital murder, there was no need for a sentencing hearing to reveal any mitigating factors, such as age and maturity of the defendant.

But the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 ordered Miller be re-sentenced and in separate case in 2016 ruled it retroactively applied to all inmates in similar circumstances - precedent-setting rulings affecting about 2,000 inmates nationwide who were juveniles when they killed.

Craig held a hearing in March 2017 to determine whether Miller should again be sentenced to life without parole or get a chance at one day of being paroled. But the judge did not issue a ruling at that time.

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