Alabama juvenile lifer appeals life without parole sentence

Alabama News

FILE – In this April 27, 2021 file photo, Evan Miller appears via video from prison in St. Clair County, Ala., during a hearing. Miller, sentenced to die in prison for a murder committed when he was 14 is appealing the life without parole sentence he has twice received. His case became became U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Court records show Miller is appealing the resentencing he received in April. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler, File)

(AP) — A man sentenced to die in prison for a murder committed when he was 14 — whose case became U.S. Supreme Court precedent — is appealing the life without parole sentence handed down to him for a second time, court records show.

In a motion for a new trial, Evan Miller’s lawyers asked a judge to reconsider the resentencing handed down in April. Miller is the youngest person in Alabama and one of only a few people across the country sentenced to die in prison for crimes committed when they were 14 or younger, according to his lawyers.

They also filed a notice of appeal to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that the judge failed to properly apply the Supreme Court ruling in Miller’s case to consider the special factors of youth.

“The Constitution categorically prohibits sentencing a 14-year-old child like Evan to die in prison. The United States Supreme Court has found that the significant differences between children and adults mean that ‘juvenile offenders cannot with reliability be classified among the worst offenders,’” his lawyers wrote.

Miller was 14 in 2003 when he and another teen beat Cole Cannon with a baseball bat before setting fire to Cannon’s trailer. His mandatory sentence was life without parole. In reviewing his case, the U.S. Supreme Court banned mandatory life without parole for juvenile offenders and ordered a new sentencing.

Lawrence Circuit Judge Mark Craig in April ruled that 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 his age and abuse-filled childhood that the defense argued made him deserve an opportunity for rehabilitation and release.

Craig noted the words Miller said 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.”

The Supreme Court decision in Miller’s case, along with another decision that made it retroactive, led to inmates across the country getting a chance at release for crimes they committed as juveniles.

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