« "The Fate of Lethal Injection: Decomposition of the Paradigm and Its Consequences" | Main | "Harm Reduction at the Center of Incarceration" »

April 27, 2021

Evan Miller, of Miller v. Alabama, sentenced again to LWOP for murder committed when he was only 14

As reported in this AP piece, headlined "Juvenile lifer who set precedent sentenced to life again," a high-profile juvenile murderer was sentenced yet again to life in prison without parole despite having helped win a Supreme Court ruling reversing his original LWOP sentence. Here are the details:

Evan Miller was just 14 when he committed the slaying that sent him to prison. In reviewing his case, the U.S. Supreme Court banned mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles — saying judges and juries should consider the special factors of youth — a decision that eventually led to inmates across the country getting a chance at release.

But Miller will not get that chance. A judge on Tuesday handed down a second life sentence without possibility of parole.

Lawrence Circuit Judge Mark Craig ruled that Evan Miller, despite being a young teen when he committed his crime, met the legal criteria to be sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. Craig said the severity of Miller’s crime outweighed the mitigating factors of Miller’s age and his abuse-filled childhood that the defense argued made him deserving of an opportunity of a chance to get out of prison some day. Craig said a sentence of life without the possibility of parole was the “only just sentence” over the lesser punishment of life with a chance of parole after 30 years.

Miller was 14 in 2003 when he and another teen beat Cole Cannon with a baseball bat before setting fire to his trailer, a crime for which he was originally sentenced to a mandatory life sentence. Before handing down the sentence, Craig repeated the line that Miller was attributed with saying before he delivered a final blow to Cannon: “I am God. I’ve come to take your life.” Craig said those were some of “the most chilling words I have heard.”

Craig said he was not convinced Miller could be rehabilitated and noted that Miller was the primary aggressor in the slaying. “Had you not made the decisions that night, Mr. Cannon, in my view, would still be alive,” Craig said. “You showed cunning, not clumsy, rash thinking.”

Miller, now 32, appeared during the hearing, which was conducted virtually, by video link from an office at the Alabama prison where he is incarcerated. He did not visibly react as the sentence was read.

The Supreme Court in 2012 ruled in Miller’s case that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. In the 2012 opinion in Miller’s case, justices ordered that judges and juries should consider “children’s diminished culpability, and heightened capacity for change” should make such sentences “uncommon.”...

While other juvenile lifers across the country have seen their sentences reduced because of Miller’s case and a later ruling that made the decision retroactive, his own case had lingered without a decision until Tuesday. At an earlier resentencing hearing, Miller’s lawyers cited his childhood of physical abuse and neglect and argued that at 14, his brain was not fully developed....

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said the judge, “restored the punishment that is fitting for Evan Miller’s wicked actions.” “When Evan Miller robbed and savagely beat his neighbor, setting fire to the man’s trailer and leaving his incapacitated victim to die a horrible death, he earned a well-deserved sentence of life in prison without parole,” Marshall said in a statement.

April 27, 2021 at 10:40 PM | Permalink


It certainly does seem that at 14 years old, this young man was already among the worst of the worst criminals, an irredeemable sociopath. It is hard to think that someone like him could ever become reformed and rehabilitated in prison and be safely released back into society after serving 30 years in prison. Although I am generally pretty liberal in sentencing matters, I think that in this case, I agree with the Judge.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Apr 28, 2021 12:04:58 PM

I sure wouldn't want him to live anywhere near me.

Posted by: William C Jockusch | Apr 28, 2021 10:40:16 PM

Do you all really think there is a ZERO percent chance that Miller could possibly be safely released, say to home confinement, in his 70s come 2060? I sincerely do not know, but an LWOP sentence forecloses being open-minded about this future question. An LWOP sentence also gives Miller no clear incentive to be a good inmate and citizen over the next 40 years, although perhaps Alabama clemency practices will evolve in coming decades.

Posted by: Doug B. | Apr 29, 2021 8:29:24 AM

Given their impulsivity and still-developing sense of empathy, juveniles are more apt to commit brutal crimes.

Posted by: John | Apr 29, 2021 10:29:15 AM

Under Alabama law, the Judge's alternative would be a life sentence, with the possibility of parole after 30 years. It just depends on how much one trusts the discretion of the (future) parole board.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Apr 29, 2021 1:34:25 PM

Man. You people are hard core. Are you aware of the level to which you have bought into fear?

Under the non LWOP sentence, he'd be 44-ish before he could even be considered for release. That is a long, long time in prison. There's one pretty non-controversial proposition in carceral psychology and that is that people age out of crime. And they start doing so about the time Mr. Miller could even be considered for release. And that with a lengthy period of close observation for ongoing anti-social behavior. And some probably negligible amount of counseling and psychological evaluation.

A decision that a person is incorrigible and irredeemable is suspect in my mind, generally. Especially so when that person is a teen four years shy of majority.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Apr 29, 2021 10:08:36 PM

The idea that a person cannot even have the CHANCE to get parole is rather extreme. This isn't about guaranteeing someone who committed a crime at 14 will get out let's say 20-30 years later. It is giving the person a CHANCE to do so. Forgive the caps. It is the bare minimum that should be in place for a just system.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 29, 2021 10:54:13 PM

And I still believe the outcome in Roper was incorrect.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Apr 29, 2021 11:24:26 PM

If Roper went the other way, a small number of teen murderers would be executed. The rest would be in prison. The right to down the road have a chance -- including since it isn't in public interest to keep some of them in prison for life -- for parole holds as the proper path.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 30, 2021 11:26:19 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB