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COA affirms attempted murder conviction on second appeal

July 13, 2018

A man twice convicted of attempted murder has failed to convince the Indiana Court of Appeals to again reverse and remand his conviction after filing three appellate challenges to his conviction within two years.

Michael Miller’s second appeal of his attempted murder conviction traces back to August 2014, when Jeremy Kohn and his girlfriend, Kylee Bateman, were sitting on the porch at Kohn’s Bloomfield home. The couple saw Miller walking through the neighborhood and waved at him, then began laughing at a story Bateman was telling.

Miller, believing the couple was laughing at him, went up to the porch, pulled out a pocket knife and cut Kohn’s throat without saying a word. Miller then turned and left in silence, and Kohn received 40 stitches to close the wound.

Miller was arrested three days later and eventually admitted to cutting Kohn’s threat. When asked if he wanted to kill Kohn, Miller said he didn’t care and claimed he didn’t have emotion.

After undergoing subsequent mental health treatment, Miller was convicted of Level 1 felony attempted murder. But the Indiana Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in March 2017 after finding the Greene Circuit Court incorrectly applied the standard of a “knowing” mens rea, rather than the “specific intent to kill” mens rea used to prove an attempted murder charged.

The following July, a majority of the Indiana Supreme Court upheld all aspects of the COA’s opinion except one — the order for a new trial. The majority justices held that the appropriate remedy would be for the trial court to reconsider the case under the appropriate legal standard and, thus, remanded the case to the trial court. Justice Geoffrey Slaughter dissented.

Once back at the trial court, Miller filed a motion for a change of judge, which was denied. The court then issued revised findings and conclusions and again convicted Miller of attempted murder under the proper mens rea. The COA upheld that conviction on Friday after Miller filed a second appeal in Michael A. Miller v. State of Indiana, 28A01-1712-CR-2918.

In his second appeal, Miller again argued the trial court applied the incorrect standard in finding him guilty, but Judge Paul Mathias said the revised findings “clearly, explicitly, and unambiguously found that Miller acted with the requisite specific intent to kill.” Mathias also said there was sufficient evidence to support an inference that Miller had that requisite intent.

“Here, Miller slit the victim’s throat with a three- to four-inch knife, requiring the victim to have over forty stitches to close the wound,” the judge wrote for the unanimous appellate panel. “… Under these facts and circumstances, the trial court, acting as the trier of fact, could reasonably conclude that Miller acted with the specific intent to kill when he slit the victims’ throat.”

The panel also upheld the denial of Miller’s motion for a new judge on remand, finding no evidence of judicial bias.

Finally, in two footnotes, the panel wrote that if Miller was unhappy that he was not able to re-argue his case on remand, he should challenge that decision with the Supreme Court, which “made no reference to permitting Miller or the State to reargue the case” in its 2017 decision.

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