KISSIMMEE, Fla. — A jury has recommended the death penalty for Everett Miller, the man convicted in the 2017 killings of two Kissimmee Police Department officers.
- Miller guilty of killing 2 Kissimmee Police officers in 2017
- Judge does not have to take jury's recommendation of death
A dozen jurors at the Osceola County Courthouse in Kissimmee began deliberating Wednesday at about 11 a.m. They came back with their recommendation of death at about 4:30 p.m., almost six hours later.
Miller did not show any emotion while the jury read its verdict aloud. Jurors also said Miller did not prove any mitigators, resulting in the defense requesting each juror be asked individually whether there were any mitigating circumstances. Every one said no.
Defense attorney Roseanne Eckert said the defense team filed to have the mitigating factors listed in the verdict form for jurors, but Judge Greg Tynan ruled against it. Eckert said she thought the jurors' findings were unreasonable, but she still thanked the jury for being attentive, engaged, and giving their time.
Prosecutor Ryan Williams said the jury's verdict speaks volumes and that jurors used a form approved by the Florida Supreme Court.
"The fact that they did not find any mitigators is important, because obviously, the judge heard that and while the judge has an independent responsibility to evaluate everything himself, I think not just the sentence that was recommended but the way it was recommended will be an important factor that he will consider," Williams said.
Miller was convicted on September 11 in the slayings of Sgt. Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter.
In order for a death recommendation in Florida, a jury must be unanimous in its decision. If one juror decides against the death penalty, the felon will get life in prison.
During deliberations Wednesday, one juror asked for some time alone. Both legal teams had a question, and when the judge asked the juror to be more specific, they said "I would like time to pray."
The state asked for the death penalty, saying the killings are a responsibility Miller has to assume. Prosecutors argue the crime was planned because of Miller's activity on social media. They pointed to racist and anti-law-enforcement Facebook posts he made.
"Everett Miller shot and killed Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard to send a message — a message that was as clear as the blood on their uniform," Williams told jurors.
For its part, the defense tried to paint a picture of Miller as a family man and 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps who once had top secret clearance and seven deployments, earning him the nickname "Top Miller."
"I am going to ask you to consider how Master Sgt. Miller, the proud decorated Marine you see on the left, turned into this broken, barefooted, ill man," Eckert told jurors.
"There is nothing wrong with considering mercy and redemption," Eckert said.
With a tissue on hand, Miller looked teary-eyed during his attorneys' closing arguments. During a recess, Miller was seen blowing a kiss to his stepparents sitting behind him.
There will be a status hearing December 20 to try to schedule a Spencer hearing. During a Spencer hearing, the defense team will have the opportunity to present additional evidence in hopes of persuading Tynan to overrule the jury’s recommendation.