NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Nearly five years into a life sentence for killing a teenager at a Harvey nightclub, rapper C-Murder is challenging his conviction.
NOLA.com ‘ The Times-Picayune reports (http://bit.ly/1pICPEq ) the 43-year-old is serving his sentence at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, for second-degree murder in the Jan. 12, 2002, death of 16-year-old Steve Thomas, of Marrero.
Two state juries convicted him. His first conviction was overturned. He was convicted a second time in August 2009.
Miller, 43, maintains his innocence. His attorney, Rachel Conner, filed a post-conviction relief application in state court in Gretna last month. She raised 10 points to support her assertion that her client didn’t get a fair trial. Conner said she plans to raise more points later.
Primary among the assertions is what she described as irregularities during the jury’s deliberations. One juror cast a guilty vote not based on the evidence but because she wanted to end deliberations to protect another juror who refused to convict Miller but was targeted by other jurors to change her mind, Conner wrote.
“The clear message to this jury of laypeople who wrote seven notes (to the judge) and attempted multiple times in open court (to say) that they were unable to proceed, was that the only way to ‘get out of here’ and end the process was to reach a 10-person verdict,” Conner wrote.
One juror, Mary Jacobs, said she did not believe prosecutors proved their case. Nonetheless, she cast the 10th vote that led to Miller’s conviction.
Days after the trial ended, she contacted The Times-Picayune and in an interview told reporters that she changed her vote to guilty to spare the young woman from further grief.
“Mr. Miller’s constitutional rights were violated and there is a reasonable possibility that the jury would have hung, causing a mistrial, but for the belief by juror Jacob that the only way to end the deliberations and protect a younger juror who would not change her vote and was being ‘brutally abused’ by the majority to the point of ‘throwing her guts up’ was to change her own vote from not guilty to guilty,” Conner wrote. “Mr. Miller is entitled to relief on this basis.”
She also accuses Liljeberg of illegally ordering the jury to reach a verdict. Further, she says, Liljeberg erred by not declaring a mistrial, and that he let the jury hear “rank hearsay” from witnesses who reported that they were threatened by Miller or his friends. She also asserts that Miller’s trial lawyer was ineffective.
Since the trial, Liljeberg has been elected to the state 5th Circuit Court of Appeal. Judge Steve Enright, who filled Liljeberg’s vacancy at the district court, must decide whether to grant Miller a hearing. No timeframe is set for such a ruling.
Miller, meanwhile, is a defendant in a wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by Thomas‘ parents, George and Dolores Thomas. Should the civil case go to trial, the only question to be addressed is whether Miller should pay damages and, if so, the amount. Miller’s attorney, Roy Maughan Jr., of Baton Rouge, has said the rapper is broke.