Fault Lines
19 January 2019
miller snitch

Shitheel Prosecutor Trampled by Technicality

March 15, 2017 (Fault Lines) — Some events are rare. Winning the lottery. Getting struck by lightning. Eating at a strip mall Mexican restaurant without hearing your spouse muttering under her breath and streaming Febreze in the air in the bathroom the next day.

And then there’s seeing a prosecutor who can actually be sued for something he did wrong.

Robert Bradley Miller sought the death penalty against two defendants, Paris LaPriest Powell and Yancy Lyndell Douglas, for a lethal drive-by shooting in Oklahoma City. The only problem was that no one had seen them do it—except Derrick Smith, a Crips gang member who not only witnessed the shooting, but was able to identify Powell’s face and Douglas’ triumphant voice as he drove by.

Now, this wasn’t exactly what he told police when he was first interviewed. In fact, he seemed a little hazy on whether the car had four people in it, or seven or eight. And he was only 50% sure that Powell was actually the driver. He also mentioned that he was pretty drunk.

But, despite these minor problems, Smith was an excellent witness at both trials. He wasn’t expecting any deals, having already been given a ten-year sentence on a drug charge. He could identify everyone perfectly. And the prosecutor repeatedly assured the jury that Smith’s testimony was the unvarnished truth.

Now, of course, this was all crap. Smith had been let out of jail on his ten-year sentence after only four months. Then, when he reoffended, the prosecutor bailed him out again to get him to trial. And the day after Smith sealed the deal against Douglas, Miller wrote a letter to the parole board lauding Smith as a “responsible citizen,” which let Smith out of prison yet again.

Now, Smith had to testify against Powell. He did, if anything, an even better job. He promised the jury he had received no benefit from his testimony. The prosecutor summed it up beautifully in closing:

He came to court, he followed the law, he never tried to retaliate, he told what he knew, he told the truth. He went to prison on his own case and never asked for a thing …. He got a ten year to do [sic] sentence at 17 years of age for having some cocaine on him. He got whacked. And nobody interceded because he didn’t want it that way.

So now, Powell and Douglas were convicted, though they were only serving life sentences. And of course, their appeals were winding through the system. The problem, though, was that Smith owned Miller now. At any time, he could talk about the deal he had been offered and blow up the whole trial.

So when Smith shot someone in the street, Miller arranged for the case to be dismissed due to lack of identification. When Smith got involved in a drive-by shooting, that case was also dismissed due to lack of cooperation from victims. And when Smith beat his girlfriend with a baseball bat, then got involved in drug trafficking and a murder in Wichita Falls, Miller called the prosecutors involved in his case to mention his cooperation even though he no longer worked for the office. With his history, and a murder under his belt, Smith was sentenced to twelve years in prison—a sweetheart deal.

But Smith was a little disgruntled, and so he wrote up an affidavit shortly after Powell and Douglas had had their habeas petitions denied by the District Court. He laid out what happened, figuring he’d probably gotten what he needed from Miller. And the 10th Circuit, to its credit, reversed both their convictions.

Miller’s conduct was bad enough that he actually faced some minor bar consequences. The Supreme Court of Oklahoma found that, for suborning perjury and enabling a gang member to shoot people in his community, a year’s suspension was too harsh. There just wasn’t enough evidence that he meant to break the rules. But half a year would be okay.

Two Justices issued a fairly harsh dissent:

Whether it was “decades ago” or today, no attorney should ever commit the “reprehensible” conduct in death penalty (or any other) litigation as detailed in the Majority Opinion and Trial Panel Report. The actions of the Respondent take us into the dark, unseen, ugly, shocking nightmare vision of a prosecutor who loves victory more than he loves justice. I agree with the recommendation of the Oklahoma Bar Association that the Respondent should be disbarred.

So now, things have gotten almost as bad for Miller as it gets for a prosecutor, short of a criminal prosecution. But the major question was, could he be sued?

Normally, the answer is no. Hell no might be more accurate. Prosecutors generally enjoy absolute immunity for anything they do while serving their prosecutorial role. Being held responsible for misconduct would “chill” them, courts reason. But Miller had made the ultimate mistake, he had continued being a shitbag after he stopped being a prosecutor:

Powell has provided sufficient record evidence from which a jury could reasonably conclude that Miller, while known as a prosecutor or former prosecutor, continued to intervene with and exert influence over government officials in furtherance of a promise of assistance[.]

That meant that Miller wouldn’t be entitled to immunity for the stuff he’d done to keep the men in prison after he stopped being a prosecutor. Now, ordinarily, this is where someone would file a direct appeal. But apparently, Miller or his lawyer were not that bright. Because they waited three years. And then asked the trial court to reconsider.

The trial court said no, naturally. At which point, Miller decided to try to appeal from that. And ran into one of those unfortunate technicalities that run so many criminal defendants aground—you can appeal from an original decision by a district court, but you don’t necessary get extra time by asking the court to reconsider. Miller’s crap lawyering had almost ended two men’s lives, and now it ended his immunity for the actions he took.

This isn’t exactly an inspirational tale. While Powell and Douglas both had the charges dropped against them, they still served sixteen years in prison. And hell, there’s always the possibility that they could have been guilty, and Smith’s honest testimony could have sunk them.

But there is something delightful about seeing a prosecutor who spent his whole career ignoring the rules in pursuit of victory find himself run, at last, aground upon them. Bradley Miller might be the rare prosecutor that pays the price.

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  • SCG
    15 March 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Does this mean that Brady rule is in effect for the prosecutions or actions he undertook?

    What effect, if any, will this have on Miller’s attempt to intervene after he left office?