There was a stark question raised by the details of Tuesday’s courtroom testimony Brandon Miller was involved in the shooting death of a woman last month in TuscaloosaWhy wasn’t the Alabama basketball star charged with a crime?
Did Miller simply show poor judgment on the night of the fatal shooting, when he allegedly brought his gun to teammate Darius Miles after Miles sent a text message asking Miller to do so? Or could handing over the gun used to kill 23-year-old collector Jonai Harris allegedly make Miller an accessory to the murder?
Requested on Tuesday by AL.com Why Miller has not been charged with a crime Tuscaloosa District Assistant District Attorney Paula Whiteley said, “There is nothing we can charge him with.” Legal experts told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday that the statement indicates that Whitley and her colleagues lack sufficient evidence to prove that Miller intended to assist in a crime.
“They say they have no evidence that he knew what the gun was going to be used for,” said Philip Holloway, a Georgia criminal defense attorney who is following the case. “They will have to prove that when he gave the weapon to a third party, he was knowingly participating in some sort of criminal act. If he did not know that, and there was nothing else illegal in connection with the transfer of that weapon, then there is no crime.”
That’s what Miller’s attorney in Tuscaloosa said in a statement released Wednesday. When Miller took Miles to a nightclub in Tuscaloosa the night of the shooting, Attorney Jim Standridge said, Miles brought his gun and left it hidden under some clothing in the back seat of Miller’s car. According to Standridge, Miller “never saw or handled the revolver”.
Miller, the Crimson Tide’s second-place leading scorer and potential lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft, was on his way back to the nightclub to pick up Miles, according to Standard, when Miles sent a text asking Miller for his gun. By then, Miles and his old friend Michael Davis had already run into Harris and her boyfriend outside the club and had a falling out. Davis danced in front of Harris’ black Jeep and tried to get her phone number, according to AL.com. Harris’ friend told Davis to move on.
When Miller arrived on the scene, he told Miles Davis where the gun was and that there was a shot in the room. Minutes later, Davis allegedly fired into the victim’s jeep, hitting Harris in the face. Harris’ friend, Cedric Johnson, allegedly returned fire, wounding Davis.
Standridge did not dispute that Miller was present when the shooting occurred, but said he “did not get out of his car or interact with anyone at Mrs. Harris’ party”. According to Standridge, Miller “never touched the gun, was not involved in the exchange of it with Mr. Davis in any way and was never aware of illegal activity involving the gun”.
Standridge concluded that he had “no knowledge of any intention to use any weapon”.
Legal experts say Standridge’s focus on Miller’s intent is no coincidence. According to Alabama law, a person can only be convicted of accessory to a crime if they assist another person “with the intent to promote or assist in the commission of the crime.”
“He may have made a poor choice by doing what he did, but there appears to be no evidence that he knew what the gun was going to be used for,” Birmingham-based criminal defense attorney Tommy Spina told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday. “Can they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had specific intent to aid and abet the death of this young lady? I think they think they can’t, which is why they haven’t charged him.”
A judge ruled on Tuesday that there was enough evidence to charge Miles and Davis with first degree murder. Miller conducted multiple interviews with investigators and voluntarily gave them access to his phone and car, according to his attorney, but so far he is being treated as a witness.
The revelation of Miller’s involvement in Harris’ fatal shooting brought more attention to the incident. Not only is Miller the best player on an Alabama team that is 24-4 and poised to secure a No. 1 seed in next month’s NCAA Tournament, the 6-foot-9 freshman may also be the best NBA prospect to play college basketball this year. season.
Miller has started every game for Alabama since the Jan. 15 firing, and is averaging 18.7 points and 8.0 rebounds this season. Coach Nate Oats said Tuesday that he was aware of Miller’s presence at the scene of the killing but that Miller was “not in any trouble.”
Standridge’s statement refuted reports that Miller’s vehicle blocked the road where the victim’s Jeep was parked and prevented her from escaping. The attorney said Grace Street was “never blocked by Brandon’s car” and that Miller was already parked when the Jeep stopped behind him.
Holloway and Spina said it was likely that the Tuscaloosa District Attorney’s Office looked into the location of Miller’s car and determined that the evidence did not show that he intended to block the victim’s escape route.
“In order to be charged with a crime, they have to prove that’s what the vehicle was used for,” Holloway said.
Lawyers who spoke to Yahoo Sports said the Tuscaloosa District Attorney’s Office may continue investigating Miller, but he is in good standing for now. They said that without evidence that Miller intended to help Miles and Davis commit a crime, the district attorney’s office could not hope to bring a case against him.
“Was it a good idea to bring the gun to a friend who was out partying late into the night?” said Alabama attorney Bart Sinyard. “No, it’s not a good idea. But without more evidence of intent, it’s not a crime.
“You can’t be held criminally liable for someone bringing their own gun. You have to prove that you brought it knowing they were going to use it to hurt someone.