Judge Denies Bond for Darius Miles in Capital Murder Case – For Now
A judge in Tuscaloosa County has denied bond to Darius Miles, the former Alabama basketball player charged with capital murder in January.
Circuit Judge Daniel Pruet made the call Wednesday morning at a bond hearing in the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse. Miles will remain jailed - at least for now.
The Night of January 15th
As the Thread has extensively reported, Miles has been held in the Tuscaloosa County Jail since his arrest in January for allegedly aiding and abetting the capital murder of 23-year-old mother Jamea Harris.
Investigators say Miles was out on the Tuscaloosa Strip celebrating an Alabama basketball win over the LSU Tigers with his childhood friend Michael Davis on the night of January 14th. Police believe Davis got into a shouting match with Harris' boyfriend Cedric Johnson over the perception that Davis was flirting with Harris and her cousin, Asia Humphrey.
The groups separated briefly, but soon after they encountered each other again as Johnson, Harris and Humphrey were reportedly trying to leave the Strip in their Jeep.
All parties agree that Miles had left his semi-automatic handgun in the backseat of teammate Brandon Miller's muscle car and, just before their second encounter with the other trio, he gave it to Davis with a round in the chamber.
Prosecutors say Davis then opened fire on the Jeep, fatally wounding Harris. They say Johnson returned fire with a revolver and Davis was struck one and grazed once before he fled the scene on foot.
Defense attorneys argue Miles and Davis were afraid for their lives after the first altercation with Johnson and got the gun out of Miller's car in case they needed it for self-defense. They also have claimed video evidence shows Johnson fired his revolver first, and that Davis was returning fire when Harris was fatally shot.
Harris drove the Jeep away from where the gunfight happened on Grace Street off University Boulevard and stopped at the nearby Walk of Champions in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium, where a University of Alabama Police Officer was waiting, kicking off an investigation that eventually led to the arrests of Miles and Davis the next day.
Both men have remained jailed since their arrests and are being held without bond.
First Appearance Alone
This was also Miles' first solo appearance in a court hearing - Davis has accompanied him at every other proceeding but as the Thread first reported, earlier this month, defense attorney John Robbins asked Pruet to grant Davis youthful offender status.
Judges in Alabama rarely grant the protections to suspects accused of murder, but because Davis was 20 at the time of the shooting, he could qualify for youthful offender status, which would severely limit the maximum sentence that could be imposed against him.
The move has made all records in the case against Davis confidential until a hearing in July to determine if he will be granted the confidentiality and sentencing limitations the status entails.
Davis was originally meant to appear with Miles at the bond hearing Wednesday, but Pruet decided to combine the bond hearing with the one planned for July to review his youthful offender status.
On Wednesday, Miles' defense attorneys Mary Turner and Grace Prince made convincing arguments that Miles should be granted bond and allowed to leave jail until his case is resolved through trial, a plea deal or dismissal.
No recording devices were allowed in the courtroom, but Turner said Miles was not the shooter, not at the scene when shots were fired, tried to deescalate the situation before it turned violent and was genuinely concerned by the behavior of Cedric Johnson, who she described as "a hawk circling his prey."
Turner said after the original verbal altercation, Johnson warned a group of three male friends that something was "about to go down." She said one of them pulled a shotgun out of the trunk of their red Impala and started following behind Johnson's Jeep just before the first shots rang out.
She included letters and testimony from Mile's loved ones, teammates, friends and others, including, apparently, a friend of the judge who attends the same church as Pruet. Turner painted a picture of Miles as an encourager, God-fearing, selfless, positive, reliable, respectful, family-oriented, friendly and involved in his community.
The state's prosecutors were far more succinct and simply argued that at a minimum, Miles called Brandon Miller and had his gun brought to the Strip and handed it over to his "clearly agitated" friend Michael Davis, and only moments later, Harris was dead.
Prosecutor Paula Whitley focused on Harris as a mother, daughter, girlfriend and 23-year-old human who was cut down in her prime, who would never see her own young son play basketball himself.
Pruet conceded that he found Turner's presentation moving and said there are more factors in Miles' favor than in most typical capital murder cases but ultimately denied the motion applying for bond.
Pruet said he anticipates learning more about the case sometime in the future and, when more evidence is available to review, they may revisit the issue. He was careful with his phrasing and said Miles would be denied bond "at this time."
A Case in Its Infancy
The hearing also showed the sharp differences between how the defense and prosecution see this case. For the district attorney's office, the case seems one of several dozen capital murders awaiting trial in the county, and each case can take three years or more to work its way through the legal system.
Turner and Prince clearly expect things to move faster, and Pruet heard and addressed a handful of motions the defense filed asking him to order the prosecution to move faster, especially in matters of discovery and turning over all relevant evidence to the defense.
In some cases, Pruet agreed with the defense and issued orders giving the state two weeks, a month or two months to seek out and hand over that evidence.
In others, Pruet reminded the defense that this is "a case in its infancy" and some things are just going to take more time to work out - he said there are more than 7 gigabytes of data evidence in this case to date and reviewing all of it for the surveillance footage and other records the defense is seeking cannot be done overnight.
This is a developing story and will be updated, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread for more.