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Miller v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

July 13, 2018

Michael A. Miller, Appellant-Defendant,
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Greene Circuit Court The Honorable Erik C. Allen, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 28C01-1408-F1-2

          Attorney for Appellant Kimberly A. Jackson Indianapolis, Indiana.

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Laura R. Anderson Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.


         [¶1]Following a bench trial in Greene Circuit Court, Michael Miller was convicted of attempted murder. On direct appeal, Miller argued that he was denied his right to a speedy trial, that the trial court erred by rejecting his insanity defense, and that the trial court applied the incorrect mens rea of "knowingly" in convicting him of attempted murder. We rejected Miller's first two arguments, but agreed with the last. Miller v. State, 72 N.E.3d 502, 518 (Ind.Ct.App. 2017) ("Miller I"), trans. granted. We therefore reversed Miller's conviction for attempted murder and remanded for retrial. Id. Our supreme court granted transfer and disagreed with our determination that a retrial was necessary but summarily affirmed the remainder of our opinion. Miller v. State, 77 N.E.3d 1196, 1197 (Ind. 2017) (per curiam) ("Miller II"). Instead, the court remanded with instructions that the trial court apply the appropriate mens rea to the existing evidence. Id. On remand, the trial court explicitly applied the correct mens rea and again found Miller guilty of attempted murder. In this second appeal, Miller presents two issues for our review, which we reorder and restate as: (1) whether there was insufficient evidence to support Miller's conviction for attempted murder, and (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Miller's motion for a change of judge on remand.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         A. Facts Underlying Miller's Conviction

         [¶3]The facts underlying Miller's conviction were set forth in our opinion in his first direct appeal as follows:

At about 11:30 p.m. on the night of August 10, 2014, Jeremy Kohn was sitting on the porch of his residence in Bloomfield with his girlfriend, Kylee Bateman. Kohn and Bateman observed Miller twice approach a neighboring house, knock on the door or ring the door bell, and then walk away. Kohn did not know Miller personally but believed he may have gone to school with him. Kohn and Bateman waved at Miller. Bateman was telling Kohn a story that may have made them both laugh; Miller apparently believed Kohn and Bateman were laughing at him. He then approached Kohn "nonchalantly," drew a pocketknife with a three-to-four-inch blade, and cut Kohn's throat without saying a word. Tr. p. 53. Miller, who had a "blank look" on his face, then turned around and left, still without saying anything. Id. The cut to Kohn's neck was not deep enough to damage his jugular vein, carotid artery, or trachea, although a slightly deeper cut could have done so and would have posed a risk of death. The wound required over forty stitches to close.
On August 13, 2014, Marshall Randy Raney of the Worthington Police Department responded to a report of a suspicious person in a local cemetery. Worthington is about twelve miles from Bloomfield. The suspicious person was Miller. Marshall Raney believed Miller seemed "backward" and quiet. Id. at 74. Miller told Marshall Raney that he was trying to hitchhike his way to Indianapolis. At the time of this encounter with Marshall Raney, Miller had not yet been identified as a suspect in the attack on Kohn.
Later on August 13, Miller was arrested in Worthington . . . . As Miller was being placed in handcuffs by Deputy Harvey Holt of the Greene County Sheriffs Department, he said that he knew why he was being arrested and asked what charges he would face. Miller then submitted to an interview conducted by Officer Marvin Holt of the Bloomfield Police Department after waiving his Miranda rights.
During the interview, Miller said he had been attempting to return a textbook and some flashcards to a former teacher; Miller was twenty-four years old at the time of the crime. He volunteered several times that he was not "paranoid" or "psychotic" or on drugs, but he also said that people he encountered often attempted to frighten him or laughed at him. Ex. 7. He then admitted that he cut Kohn's throat with a knife after Kohn and Bateman smiled at him, and Kohn looked at
Bateman and shook his head. Officer Holt related that family members had expressed concern about Miller's mental health and asked Miller whether he believed he needed help or medication; Miller denied that he did so and said he believed he was fine. Miller said that, because he did not hear any sirens after cutting Kohn's throat, he assumed neither Kohn nor Bateman called police or the police did not care, and he decided to go to Indianapolis, apparently by a combination of walking and hitchhiking. Miller also engaged Officer Holt in conversation about why it had taken several days for police to contact him and said he was aware that what he had done was against the law. Officer Holt asked Miller whether he wanted to kill Kohn, and Miller replied that he did not care. He said that he accepted responsibility for what he had done and that he assumed he would go to jail and asked Officer Holt if he could bring his Bible to jail. At one point, after Officer Holt asked Miller whether he might hurt someone again in the future, Miller explained, "Some people can view human life the same way but have different outcomes because of emotion. I don't have the emotion." Id. at 15:50. Miller had a calm demeanor during the interview, spoke throughout in an even and emotionless tone of voice, and ate a candy bar and drank a soda while he talked to Officer Holt.

Miller I, 72 N.E.3d at 506-07.

         B. Miller's Prosecution and Trial

         [4] The State subsequently charged Miller with Level 1 felony attempted murder and Level 3 felony aggravated battery.[1] The charging information for attempted murder alleged that Miller "did knowingly or intentionally attempt to commit the crime of Murder, to-wit: to knowingly kill Jeremy Kohn, and Michael A. Miller did engage in conduct which constituted a substantial step toward the commission of the crime of murder, to-wit: cut Jeremy Kohn's throat with a knife. . . ." Original Appeal App. p. 29.

         [¶5] As explained in our opinion in Miller's first appeal, "Miller has a lengthy history of mental illness." Miller I, 72 N.E.3d at 507. Thus, on August 15, 2014, Miller's trial counsel filed a notice of defense of mental disease or defect. Miller was found incompetent to stand trial on March 16, 2015, and was treated at Logansport State Hospital. On July 21, 2015, the hospital certified to the trial court that Miller was competent to stand trial, and he was transported back to the Greene County Jail to await trial.

         [¶6] At Miller's January 20, 2016 bench trial, Miller presented evidence from a psychologist who opined that at the time of the crime, Miller suffered from a mental disease or defect that affected his ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct. This expert testified that, although Miller acknowledged he had done something wrong, he lacked understanding of why it was wrong. A court-appointed psychiatrist agreed that Miller suffered from schizophrenia but believed that Miller "probably did understand the wrongfulness of his actions," yet believed that Miller was "unable to resist the strong urge to nevertheless take those actions at the time that they occurred. . . ." Trial Tr. p. 170 (emphasis added). Yet another psychiatrist also testified that Miller was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.[2]

         [¶7] On January 27, 2016, the trial court entered detailed, written "Findings, Conclusions and Judgment of Conviction" (the "Original Findings"). In the Original Findings, the trial court explained why it was discounting the expert opinions regarding Miller's sanity or lack thereof and rejected his defense of mental disease or defect. It noted that it was relying instead upon its courtroom observations of Miller, as well as his comportment during the police interview and his actions and demeanor near the time of the crime.

         [¶8] As we recounted in our original opinion:

The [Original] [F]indings also repeated the language of the charging information for attempted murder, namely that Miller "did knowingly or intentionally attempt to commit the crime of Murder, to-wit: to knowingly kill Jeremy Kohn. . . ." The trial court found and concluded "that Defendant had the requisite intent to kill as he used a knife, which is a deadly weapon, to deliberately cut the victims [sic] throat in a manner that was likely to cause death or great bodily harm." The trial court also expressly found beyond a reasonable doubt that Miller "did knowingly or intentionally attempt to commit the crime of Murder, to-wit: to knowingly kill Jeremy Kohn. . . ."

Miller I, 72 N.E.3d at 509-10 (record citations omitted) (emphasis added).

         [¶9] The trial court entered judgments of conviction of guilty but mentally ill for both Level 1 felony attempted murder and Level 5 felony battery, but at sentencing merged the battery conviction with the attempted murder conviction. It then sentenced Miller to a term of thirty years, with twenty years executed and ten years suspended to probation.

         C. Miller's First Appeal

         [¶10] Miller appealed and argued that the trial court denied his right to a speedy trial under Indiana Criminal Rule 4(B), that the trial court improperly rejected his insanity defense, and that the trial court applied the incorrect mens rea in convicting him of attempted murder. Miller I, 72 N.E.3d at 506. With regard to Miller's first argument, this court held, given the complexity of his insanity defense, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by granting the State's request for a continuance and extending the start of Miller's trial for ninety days, and that Miller's trial therefore began within the limits prescribed by Criminal Rules 4(B) and 4(D). Id. at 513. With regard to his second argument, we held that "despite substantial evidence of Miller's serious mental health problems, there is sufficient evidence to support the trial court's rejection of his insanity defense." Id. at 515. Lastly, we held that the trial court appeared to have applied the incorrect "knowingly" mens rea in finding Miller guilty of attempted murder. Id. at 517. Specifically, we held:

[G]iven the severity of the charge against Miller and the incorrect language of the charging information, we find it impossible to ignore the trial court's findings that clearly misstate the proper standard for convicting a defendant of attempted murder. In a jury trial, there is no way to divine a jury's thought process except by reference to the jury instructions; here, without jury instructions, we can divine that process by the trial court's findings.
Both the charging information and the trial court's findings refer to the long-discredited notion that a "knowing" mens rea was sufficient to convict Miller of attempted murder. It was not. Moreover, Miller's intent was a central issue in this case. Despite our affirmance of the rejection of Miller's insanity defense, we offer no opinion at this time as to whether there is sufficient evidence that Miller acted with the specific intent to kill Kohn. It suffices to say that, even if the evidence ...

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