Court affirms death sentence in '97 shooting

September 19, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The state's highest court narrowly affirmed yesterday the death sentence imposed on Jody Lee Miles for the 1997 fatal shooting of a community theater director in Wicomico County.

The Court of Appeals ruled 4-3 that the evidence used to convict Miles - including his confession - was legally obtained, even though he became a suspect only when police identified his voice in an illegally taped cell phone conversation.

"We find it significant that the facts used by the police in questioning ... were all facts learned by the police through lawful investigative means," Judge Lynne A. Battaglia wrote.

Miles, 32, was convicted of felony murder and robbery for shooting Edward Atkinson in the back of the head April 2, 1997.

Miles was linked to the killing when someone listening to a police scanner picked up a cell phone conversation between Miles and his wife and alerted police.

Miles told police that he was collecting money for a Delaware loan shark and that he met Atkinson in the woods to pick up a payment. Miles told police he shot Atkinson because he thought Atkinson was reaching for a gun.

The taped cell phone conversation was ruled inadmissible, but the evidence included Miles' confession and the murder weapon that police fished out of the Choptank River, where Miles' wife said she discarded it.

Assistant Attorney General Gary E. Bair, chief of the criminal appeals division, said Miles is not likely to be executed for "years and years" because he still has a number of state and federal appeals.

Four of the 13 inmates on Maryland's death row - Steven Howard Oken, Wesley Baker, Vernon Evans and Anthony Grandison - have nearly exhausted their appeals. But their executions were put on hold in April when the Court of Appeals agreed to review new legal challenges to the death penalty statute.

The court is scheduled to consider those claims, filed on behalf of Oken and Baker, at a hearing in Annapolis Oct. 9.

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