Judge to Rule “Soon” on Darius Miles’ Immunity After Self-Defense Hearing Ends
Circuit Judge Daniel Pruet will have a lot to consider as he weighs whether to dismiss the capital murder case against former Alabama basketball player Darius Miles after a long and frustrating immunity hearing finally concluded Friday afternoon.
Setting the Scene
Friday's hearing was a continuation of one that ended without resolution last month - defense attorneys representing Miles have struggled to compel the witnesses upon which their arguments rely to actually show up in court.
Those issues persisted Friday - lawyers are trying to convince Pruet that Miles was afraid for his life when he gave his legally owned handgun to Davis, who used it moments later in a gunfight with a Birmingham man, Cedric Johnson, and fatally wounded Johnson's girlfriend, 23-year-old mother Jamea Harris.
Harris was on the Tuscaloosa Strip on the ngiht of January 14th and the predawn hours of January 15th with Johnson and her cousin, Asia Humphrey. They were also accompanied by three other men - Shu'Bonte Green, Jack Thompson and a third man named KeeVon who has reportedly died since the killing. The five men were reportedly members of the Birmingham area "West End Money Gang."
Miles and Davis were on the Strip with other Alabama basketball players to celebrate the Tide's at-home victory that night over the LSU Tigers. All parties spent time inside Twelve 25, a restaurant and bar on University Boulevard, but they did not interact until everyone left.
After the day had turned over into the morning of January 15th, Michael Davis and Cedric Johnson had a brief confrontation in the street, allegedly over the way Davis was dancing in front of the Jeep that Harris, Humphrey and Johnson were in together.
It was the first time anyone from either group interacted that night, attorneys say. Shots rang out and Harris was killed about eight minutes later.
Eight Crucial Minutes
The self-defense argument centers on what happened during those eight minutes.
Defense attorneys Mary Turner, Grance Prince and Kayla Griffin say when Darius Miles saw his friend exchanging words with Johnson, he walked back to Davis and got him to walk away from the confrontation.
It was at that time Miles reportedly saw Jamea Harris pass a gun to Cedric Johnson, and that Johnson then walked across University Boulevard to rally up Green, Thompson and the late KeeVon.
At the same time, Miles texted his teammate, freshman superstar Brandon Miller, and asked him to drive to the area - Miles does not have a driver's license and had ridden with Miller earlier that night. Twelve 25 does not allow weapons inside, and Miles' handgun was in the back of Miller's Dodge Challenger.
Miller's attorneys say he was already on the way to pick Miles up when he got that text, and arrived soon after. Miles retrieved the loaded semiautomatic, gave it to Michael Davis and walked away.
Meanwhile, the defense claims Johnson drove the Jeep to a nearby parking lot, where Green, Thompson and KeeVon were waiting in a red Impala. Johnson got out of the Jeep and spoke to the trio, someone opened the trunk and, according to the defense, Jack Thompson pulled out a pump action shotgun and got back in the car.
The Jeep then pulled out of the parking lot with the Impala close behind - they first headed north on Grace Street, away from the Strip, but then pulled a U-turn and headed south again, back toward where Brandon Miller's car was still parked and Michael Davis had just armed himself with Daris Miles' handgun.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys differ on who shot first, but all agree that Michael Davis and Cedric Johnson exchanged gunfire - Davis was firing into the Jeep, and Johnson, armed with a large-caliber revolver, was shooting back out at Davis, who was struck in the shoulder by one bullet and grazed by another.
Johnson was not injured, but a bullet struck Jamea Harris in the head and Johnson, who was driving the Jeep, sped away from the scene of the shooting and pulled into the nearby Walk of Champions in front of Bryant Denny Stadium, where he saw a University of Alabama Police cruiser.
When he arrived, Harris was already dead.
Darius Miles' State of Mind
The defense, led mostly on Friday by Grace Prince, was deft in stringing together surveillance and dashcam footage to firmly establish the timeline of events, from the confrontation in the street at 1:37 a.m. to the deadly shooting at 1:45 a.m.
It remains to be seen, though, if their arguments will be enough to convince Judge Pruet that Miles was afraid for his life and acting in self-defense when he armed Michael Davis.
In cross-examining the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit investigator who interrogated Darius Miles for six hours after the shooting, District Attorney Hays Webb was adept in establishing that the basketball player was not honest with police in the aftermath. Miles' story changed frequently, and he never said he was scared or frightened or worried and never mentioned a red Impala full of gang members who intended him harm.
It doesn't matter what Shu'Bonte Greene, Jack Thompson and KeeVon were up to, Webb argued, if Miles was not aware of their existence when he gave his gun to Michael Davis.
Some of the people who could concretely address unanswered questions are simply not cooperating with the case as it develops. The defense served Jack Thompson with a subpoena to appear at the hearing Friday, but he did not show up. The Turner Law Group has also been trying for months to serve Cedric Johnson, but they have been totally unable to locate him to give him the subpoena, and since he has not been served, Pruet is not willing to have him brought to court against his will.
Acknowledging Friday that their case for self-defense is incomplete without testimony from Thompson and Johnson, Turner chose to rest her case Friday rather than ask Pruet to continue the hearing another time.
Ruling to Come "Soon"
Until Judge Pruet rules on the defense's motion for immunity, Darius Miles will return to the Tuscaloosa County Jail, where he and Michael Davis have been held without bond since January.
Pruet said he hoped to rule on the matter "soon," but also acknowledged he could not say exactly what "soon" meant in this context. Turner and the defense asked for permission to file a briefing summarizing their argument for self-defense, and Pruet said they had until next Friday, October 6th, to file one.
He then granted the state until October 20th to respond to the brief after it's filed, if they so desire.
If Pruet delays his ruling until after the brief is filed and also allows time for prosecutors to respond, it may mean three more weeks of legal limbo for Miles. If Pruet rules in favor of the defense, the case against Miles could be dismissed entirely. If not, the case will continue toward an eventual trial.
If convicted, Miles could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The state has said it will not seek the death penalty in this case.
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