For two years Daniel Miller chronicled his experience while being tried as an adult for a crime he committed at sixteen. Following is the second half of his story, which The Beat Within, has generously allowed The Crime Report to share.
March 1st, today was the last of the people's evidence. There was a detective again on the stand for most of the morning. Then there was Dr. Michelle Jordan, Medical Examiner.
She's a coroner. In this case she was rendering her opinions off of photos of the victim. How can she say how the guy died if she never actually looked at the body herself? It doesn't make sense to a lot of us.
When the DA was asking her questions, she was “on point” I guess you could say, but when defense started asking questions, she seemed to not know any of the answers to the questions they were asking, like they were speaking in a foreign tongue.
But I guess that's that. Now we start the defense side tomorrow. We don't have that much material. We will be done by either tomorrow or Wednesday.
But what I don't get is how can you determine how a person died just by looking at pictures? Crazy. Let's just say this: What if a man was hit by a car, then an hour and half later he gets shot and dies the next day in the hospital. So a coroner doctor does the autopsy and says the cause of death was from the car, internal bleeding, but a contributory cause of death was the bullet wound(s). Now, let's say those two people go to trial, one for the hit-an'-run, the other for the gunshots. The judge rules that the original coroner doctor doesn't have to come in on both cases. So some other coroner comes in and says it was the bullet wounds that killed him. He/she are looking at pictures to determine the cause of death. So who's going to get out? The guy who actually killed the person, the hit-an'-run guy gets out. How is all that even fair?
I keep telling my co-defendant we're not getting a fair trial 'cause we're really not. Our case is basically the same thing as the above. Guy got beat up; hour and half later got tasered 20 times. The original doctor in my case said it was both the altercation where got beat up and the cops tasering the victim/suspect.
Now this coroner doctor says it was due to “blunt force trauma”. The DA said the victim was brain dead walking around for an hour and a half… How does that work?
I think the judge messed with our rights to a fair trial. It's not just me either, a lot of people think so.
I just hope I get a chance to enjoy my life, 'cause what I was doing when I was a teen, that was not life. I thought it was, but I was young, dumb, and full of drugs. As long as I learned from those mistakes…
Can I really get punished for something I did not do? It hurts to know that I possibly could.
Defense only took one day. We had four witnesses testify and, well, it only took one day. So we're done… Tomorrow we go back and start doing the jury instructions. The jury wont be there, but we will. We gots to set the rules.
I am really nervous right now. The jury will start to deliberate on Thursday. I can get charged with 1st or 2nd degree.
There were a lot of people there on our behalf. I would say a little over 20 people we're there for us. You can tell everybody is stressed out or depressed. I just hope nobody lost that faith.
We gots to keep our heads up. God forbid that anything bad happens to us.
Judgment day is comin' real soon.
Nothin' really happened today. Counsel was just going over the jury rules. No jury was there. So we go back tomorrow for the closing statements and to give the jury their instructions.
I guess our families were mad 'cause the defense side of the case was only one day long. Some of the witnesses weren't even called. I thought I could get a PC 32, accessory after the fact, but the judge did not comply with us, as always. No manslaughter either. It's 15 or 25 to life or our freedom.
So tomorrow they will (the jury) start deliberation when everything is done.
I'm very nervous, depressed and sick of feeling like the way I do.
The DA's closing statement was just like his opening statement. Just a few differences. The fact that now he can say what he wants, such as “They're guilty,” really bothers me.
If we get convicted, it will be every terrible because the DA actually thinks he has the right guys. Well, that is far from right. I really never thought it could be like this. My co-defendant and I are so innocent; it's crazy that we're still here.
We didn't even get done today. The DA took the whole morning and some of the afternoon. Then my co-defendant's attorney went. Let me say this, even though the DA was very harsh with his PowerPoint, Eddie's attorney was very good at what he did. He shot it and made a three-pointer. All the DA is trying to get is a slam dunk. Well that's not going to happen. The DA claims that “identification is not an issue in this case.” Well, it is. Very much so. There is no physical evidence in this case whatsoever. This whole case is about identification. The DA keeps saying we did the crime. He has never been more wrong in his life.
This one woman that we know started to cry during the DA's closing. Everybody was basically wondering why. Well, she wanted to testify in our case, on our behalf. Well, let me flat out say it: A man she used to hang out with told her that he killed someone and got two other boys locked up for it. That man was picked out in a photo line-up as the one with the bat. Another line-up was shown, and another kid was picked out as the one on the bike. A sketch was done of the kid on the bike. That sketch was taken to a school and shown to the principal. The principal straight up said, “That's _____” So basically, the sketch looks identical to that kid. How crazy is that?
Eddie's attorney did what he had to do. My attorney goes on Monday. Then the DA gets to go again. The jurors start to deliberate.
Another thing I found out is the jury is responsible for letting us go home or giving us 1st or 2nd degree murder. We all can't wait until this case is over. Again, there was over 30 people there for us – friends, family, “De-Bug”, and the Mercury News. It's nice having support.
Today was my attorney's closing and the DA's rebuttal.
I would have to say my attorney did a really good job. He was so into his work, he started to sweat really bad. Shoot, I was sweating, and I was just sitting there. But all in all, he did a good job.
The DA has this thing for power points on his laptop. He did a good job, too. He is a very good DA, very tough.
My attorney made a joke, saying, “I feel like we're the hurt locker and Carr is Avatar.”
The DA did go off a little, but that's his job. Now we sit and wait while the jurors deliberate. It was a very long day.
During my attorney's last statement, I almost started to cry. Yeah, I said it. I was just thinking that if we get convicted, nobody will ever know the truth. It hurts to get blamed for a murder that you never committed. But I still go to court day to day with my head held high. Or, as my mom says ,”Chin up.”
I just got hella mad and sad at the same time 'cause to see all these people hurt due to this case. Yeah, it's sad that someone lost their life, but the people in court I see grieve are my family, friends, and my co-defendant's family. To see all these people sad and crying 'cause two young men might lose their lives to the system… it hurts.
I never really got to live my life. I thought I was, but I was wrong. I was 17 when I got locked up. Now I'm 20, almost 21. It's a lot to maintain, but I gots to keep on movin' and continue to keep my smile on my face so it shows my family that everything will be all right.
The jury is deliberating
Today was the day. We knew it; we felt it. It was about 1:40 pm when we got into court. The judge came in and that's when my heart started to pound.
When the judge told my co-defendant to stand up, I really felt like cryin', but didn't. The whole courtroom was packed. A lot of family and some friends. Then the clerk read the verdict. She went on for some time, then, finally. “We the jury find the defendant, Mr. Eddie James Sample, guilty of count one, first degree murder.”
My head dropped. People were crying. It was all bad. I could feel it coming
“We the jury find the defendant, Mr. Daniel Miller, guilty of count one, first degree murder…”
It's not the end though. Some of the jurors were crying.
Then Eddie's Dad yelled at the 12 in the box, “How are you all going to be able to sleep at night?” His Uncle said, “You all should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Then we had to get out of there. Pretty crazy day if you ask me. I'm fine though. I got to keep on movin' with my head up. I mean, yeah, it hurts, but I'll be fine. My family is still behind me 100%. You know, the sad part about it is they still got the wrong people. Now that's the part that hurts the most.
The man who passed away, his family didn't even look like it's what they wanted. But I guess this is how it was supposed to end up. I'll be comin' back, believe that. We're not done. We sure as hell ain't gonna give up.
To everyone, never fall down, never give up. Keep that faith and remember always. stay true to yourself.
To the Beat staff and readers, much love.
Post Script – One Week Later
It's Not Over
You know, when I first got convicted, I guess I was in shock. I really didn't know how serious it all really is. I got convicted of first degree murder! I still haven't been sentenced. Then again, it's only been a week. When they said my boy was guilty, that's when I knew it was a wrap for me.
The courtroom was filled, packed. A lot of crying. They said we showed no emotions when the verdict was read. What did they want us to do, sit down, slam our heads on the table and start crying? I don't think so. I did cry, but not 'til the next day. Everybody got emotions, it's just that I hold my emotions in. People say that's bad, but that's how I've always been.
Now I wait. It's not over. Far from it. I just got to wait for my appeals to go through. The waiting game. I'll be back. Probably two to three years. But I'll be back! It's not over.
Never give up. Always stay true.
I'm going to keep goin'. I tell myself, family, and my girl that there is still hope. I never gave up. I been down since '06. I've been smiling ever since. There's not a day that goes by with me not smiling at least once.
I am only 20, and my life is far from over. There's only one thing that can come out of this… And that thing is good.
I Got To Keep Moving!
Keep That Head Up!
For more information about The Beat Within and other writings by juveniles in the justice system please visit their Web site at http://www.thebeatwithin.org.