Back in 1999, an 18-year-old night manager at Chik-fil-A was murdered while he was on the job at the Palm Beach Mall. Two days ago (15 years after the murder), 32 year-old Jesse Lee Miller, Jr., who had endured three jury trials and more than a decade of accusations, was acquited by a jury of his peers.
While the acquital is evidence of the cirminal justice system’s ability to free a man who is not beyond all reasonable doubts guilty, the fact that it took so long and so many trials to deliver the ultimate result indicates major problems in the courts.
Our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers understand the heartbreak associated with the loss of an innocent life; still, the emotions emanating from such a horrific circumstance do not justify the unconconstitutional, accusatory treatment of another, especially when the case involves faulty evidence and questionable testimony.
According to reporting by the Sun Sentinel, the allegations against Miller date back to 2000, when he was initially arrested. Presumably, he was a suspect in large part because he had been demoted and then fired from the very restaurant whose manager was killed in the incident. The same year that he was arrested, however, local prosecutors were forced to drop the criminal charges against him when they acknowledged that they could not a claim of “100 percent DNA match” to Miller from the ski mask found at the scene of the crime, the Chik-fil-A restaurant where the victim worked as a manager.
In 2007, Miller was arrested again, based on evidence supposedly linking a handwritten note which had been found at the scene of the crime to Miller, a connection drawn by a so-called “handwriting expert.” In 2009, following Miller’s first trial, the jury failed to reach a verdict.
During the second trial of that same year, a jury found Miller guilty of murder, burglary, and kidnapping. Three years later, in 2012, Miller and his legal defense team won an appeal, allowing them to try the case again, which they successfully did this year.
What accounts for the persistent prosecution of this man, against whom there is clearly no irrefutable evidence? There are many factors that lead prosecutors to continue to try caes against individuals, one of them being that prosecutors don’t like to lose. That’s why it’s crucial to hire a professional legal team that knows how to win.
Unfortunately, emotions and gut feelings play a prominent role in the decision of a prosecutor to keep trying a case. One of the prosecutors in this case told the jury, “Jesse Miller had the motive. Jesse Miller had the opportunity. Jesse Miller had the desire.” These two things in an of themselves, especially the first two, do not necessarily indicate guilt. Anyone wronged by someone else could be said to have a “motive” in something bad happening to said other person. Likewise, anyone who comes into contact (frequently or not) with another person has the “opportunity” that the prosecutor refers to.
At the end of the day, as our Palm Beach and Broward County criminal defense lawyers know, a jury is required by law to not find a defendant guilty if there is any reasonable doubt about such guilt. Evidently, there was not enough evidence against Jesse Miller to convict him of murder.